Music by Gerard Schurmann -
'... clear, direct, economical and excellently focussed ...'
It is over twenty years since the issue on record of Gerard Schurmann's colourful
and vigorous Six Studies of Francis Bacon, possibly the work he is best
known for, and it is that orchestral virtuosity that surfaces again in his
Concerto for Orchestra, commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
for their centenary season in 1996.
Schurmann works slowly, and one
searches in vain for an extended series of large-scale works that might be
expected of a composer now almost eighty, and yet his careful approach to
creating just the right structure and colours, together with an extremely
self-critical personality, whilst limiting his output notably, does make
his work all the more telling when it arrives. And the Concerto for
Orchestra quite definitely arrives
[listen -- track 1, 0:03-1:00]! Nor
does it disappoint at any time through its five movements.
It is, in
places, unashamedly reminiscent of Bartók (his Hungarian mother, a pianist,
had been a pupil), but there is too much individual Schurmann here to allow
the occasional mid-European fragrance to disturb. The writing is clear,
direct, economical and excellently focussed -- there are no incidental
distractions, no effects for their own sake.
All is musically secure; a
composer who knows exactly what is to be said and, in terms of the orchestra,
exactly how to say it with skilful lucidity. Its movements explore
contrasts of mood: the first an explosive allegro, 'Summa Ferri' (a heart of
iron); the second a portrait of the exotic nocturnal moonbird; the third
thoughts of war drawn into a lament; then an Aubade; and a finale that
summarises all the earlier materials. It is both exuberant and moving,
and a great pleasure to to be in the company of such confident artistry.
Copyright © 4 October 2003
Patric Standford, Wakefield, UK