Broyhill Chamber Ensemble

George Tsontakis: Piano Quartet Trilogy

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On his Piano Quartet Trilogy, George Tsontakis reclaims the musical legacy of the early twentieth century and reshapes that period's rhetoric for contemporary ears. The influence of several composers is clear in the Piano Quartet No. 2 (1999), Eclipse (1995), and the two Bagatelles (1996 and 1997), most noticeably Bartók and Schoenberg, but to a lesser extent Debussy and even Reger. That Tsontakis turns to them for inspiration may indicate a dissatisfaction with the extremes of the avant-garde and an equal reluctance to write baldly tonal works in a neo-conservative style. As a composer who wishes to communicate without compromise, Tsontakis freely uses the language of early modernism, where the currents of post-Romanticism, Impressionism, and Expressionism cross in startling ways, yet still convey lyricism and drama through recognizable forms and continuous development. Although his harmonies are often dense and his melodic lines and counterpoint are intensely chromatic, Tsontakis' music is highly accessible, exciting, and often moving; his borrowings from the past are sophisticated and coherently adapted without sounding like pastiches. The Broyhill Chamber Ensemble delivers these impressive chamber works with great sensitivity, rich timbres, and passionate expression, and Koch's recording is splendid.

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