ARNOLD ROSNER (1945-2013): Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 30, 6 Pastoral Dances, Op. 40, Gematria, Op. 93, From the Diaries of Adam Czerniaków for Narrator and Orchestra, Op. 82.
Catalogue Number: 06R068
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0368
Description: Splendid stuff. Rosner was essentially self-taught as a composer, and he assembled his distinctive idiom from music he liked, with never a thought for fashion or any particular dogma. Since these early enthusiasms were Renaissance polyphony, Mediæval music, Hovhaness, Vaughan Williams and Nielsen, plus acknowledgement of his own Jewish roots, the result was that he arrived at a richly full-blooded brand of neo-romanticism as though the history of mainstream music in the 18th and 19th century had taken a rather different path, and most 20th century modernism hadn't happened at all. The Piano Concerto does everything a big Romantic concerto is supposed to, except that the complete avoidance of diatonic relationships make the piece sound like a Stokowski transcription of Renaissance music, and this works so well that one wonders why more composers haven't tried this approach. The title of Gematria refers to a branch of Kabbalah mysticism concerned with arcane number codes and hidden messages. Although Rosner expressed disdain for minimalism, this piece's complex overlapping, strongly rhythmic gestures and energetic momentum lend it something of a process-music character. Its restless modalities sound now Hebraic, now English, now like polyphonic chant; the powerful chorale-like climax could plausibly be by Hovhaness. Disturbing extracts from the journals of the leader of the Warsaw ghetto are recited against a dark-hued orchestral narrative; the mood is that of Shostakovich at his bleakest, but again with a constant sense of middle-eastern modes restlessly modulating in a manner well learnt from Nielsen. Peter Vinograde (piano), Peter Riegert (speaker), London Philharmonic Orchestra; David Amos.