Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center / Columbia University Group for Contemporary Music / Tashi

Charles Wuorinen: String Sextet; Piano Quintet; Divertimento

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In the note on the back of this CD, the musical career of Charles Wuorinen is compared to those of Beethoven and Brahms, but the justification for this curious idea may not be apparent to most listeners, since the music of these composers is quite dissimilar. Even though Wuorinen's models are familiar forms -- divertimento, string quartet, piano quintet, string sextet -- and his choice of instruments is conventional, his music nevertheless is modernist and uncompromising in its angular lines, dissonant chords, asymmetrical phrases, sharp contours, and continually changing rhythms. Apart from any biographical similarities, comparisons with Beethoven and Brahms may be more relevant if one considers that Wuorinen's approach to his art is intellectual and solidly grounded in tradition, and that his expression is classically poised and lucid, rather than frenetically avant-garde or chaotic. Though the luscious sonorities of the Sextet may hint at triadic harmonies, and tonal suggestions may appear in the midst of seemingly atonal counterpoint in the Second String Quartet, Wuorinen does not retreat from his own rigorously developed language; and though some devices and mannerisms of the Divertimento and the Piano Quintet are occasionally reminiscent of Classical or Romantic antecedents, no one would mistake the assertively modern music in these pieces as old-fashioned imitations or reactionary pastiches. These recordings by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the string quartet Tashi, and the Group for Contemporary Music were originally made in the 1990s for Koch International, and all have exceptional sound, so Naxos has reissued them without remastering.

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