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Like Sessions - I think particularly of Idyll of Theocritius in that old Louisville recording with its poignant solo soprano commentary - the writing is serial, but Imbrie utilizes his note rows to 'sharpen' the focus on its 'melodic' content. Like Alban Berg, he has that gift of projecting a flow of connecting instrumental combinations, balancing them poetically and subtly so they stand apart, or merge cleverly with vocal lines - here the New York Virtuoso Singers and Lisa Saffer, solo soprano and the Riverside Symphony with their dedicated conductor George Rothman. Their speciality is off-the-beaten track repertoire, and their choice in this instance, admirable.

In 6 sections, the last proclaims John Donne's sonnet 'Death Be Not Proud' in three parts - an extended introduction, the chorus singing in English instead of Latin, for the middle, the last bringing back the soprano in Latin, with a 'Benedictus' where she attains the highest notes in her range. Throughout, the work compels our closest attention, not just for the intricacy of its layout, but primarily in the meaningful clarity and humanity of conception. 'Evening Prayer', is 'a human, sensual experience suggesting a union of man with God through direct communication' - I quote the composer - where a maze of strings/woodwind traceries merge with the chorus (very like late Stravinsky, at this point), the soloist pirouetting her line legato fashion, into high regions of the universe with amazing dexterity.

Piano Concerto No 3 (1989-91) was commissioned by the Riverside Symphony for Alan Feinberg to perform, with funds from The New York State Council. The attractiveness (with New York City taxi horns intermingling with earlier reminiscences conjuring up mixed feelings of alarm and nostalgia) is certainly not of the violent kind.

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Copyright © 7 October 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK






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