An Animated Performance
Music for orchestra by
Steven R Gerber,
Steven Gerber was born in Washington DC in 1948 and is the composer of choral works, songs and piano pieces which he will frequently perform himself.
This recording highlights his more recent compositional activity with orchestral repertoire. The Spirituals which give the title to the disc were composed between 1999 and 2001, originally seven movements for string orchestra and later expanded to the ten recorded here. Each piece is based on a spiritual, the starting point being a tune written by Harry Burleigh and presented to Dvorák for use in the New World Symphony -- a tune therefore not quite an original spiritual.
Although these pieces are attractive enough, they do not command attention, nor do they seem to explore the string orchestra quite as imaginatively as they could. They would provide much pleasure to amateur string players who would certainly enjoy their accessibility.
Listen -- Amazing Grace Notes -- Homage to John Harbison
(track 4, 0:53-1:11) © 2007 Arabesque
The most recent work is a two-movement Clarinet Concerto, completed in 2002 and written for the soloist on this recording, Jon Manasse, who sustains its predominantly slow atmosphere well, though not managing to breathe much vivacity into the piece.
The most lively work is Serenade Concertante for two violins, strings and harp, dating from 1998, and given an animated performance by the two soloists José Miguel Cueto and Natalia Malkova.
Listen -- Allegro non troppo II (Serenade Concertante)
(track 14, 6:16-7:35) © 2007 Arabesque
The happy and briefly witty ending follows a short set of variations on the name of Brahms which are neatly done, but Gerber's best moods sadly don't last very long.
Copyright © 20 September 2008
Patric Standford, Wakefield UK
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Steven R Gerber: Spirituals
Z6803 Stereo NEW RELEASE 56'06" 2007 Arabesque Recordings LLC
Jon Manasse, clarinet; José Miguel Cuerto, violin; Natalia Malkova, violin; St Petersburg State Academic Symphony; Vladimir Lande, conductor
Steven R Gerber: Spirituals for String Orchestra (1999-2001) (Homage to Dvorák ('Goin' Home'); Minimalist Tendencies ('Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child'; Melody Over a Drone I ('O Mary, Don't You Weep, Don't You Mourn'); Amazing Grace Notes: Homage to John Harbison ('Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen'); Two Pentatonic Fragments ('Go Tell It on the Mountain' and 'Study War No More'); Call and Response ('Go Down, Moses'); Minor and Major ('This Ol' Time Religion'); Melody Over a Drone II ('Deep River'); Canons and Chorus ('Glory to That Newborn King'); Homage to Ravel (An arrangement of 'Balm in Gilead')); Clarinet Concerto (2000-2002) (Lento - Allegretto - Lento; Andante - Moderato - Andante con moto - Lento, come prima); Serenade Concertante (1998) (Moderato, con moto - Passacaglia (L'istesso tempo) - Moderato, con moto; Lento - Allegro non troppo - Andante con moto (Variations on B-R-A-H-M-S) - Allegro non troppo)
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