On February 3, 2008, 50-year-old Argentine composer Jorge Liderman did the unthinkable: he stepped off a railway platform in El Cerritos, CA, into the path of a BART train. This irreversible career decision occurred so suddenly that Bridge Records barely had time to update and reprint the backplate and booklet of Liderman's new CD Barcelonazo. Already long slated for release, the disc contains no acknowledgement of the event other than the addition of a death date for the composer; nevertheless, Barcelonazo will serve, to many, as Liderman's epitaph. Ironically, for many others, it may well serve as an introduction; despite that Liderman's music has been relatively well represented on CD for a composer born after 1950, the audience able to work its way through the thicket of contemporary efforts to find him has been small. Liderman's premature death will help raise awareness of the work, that much is inevitable. Suffice it is that Liderman was very highly regarded among his colleagues and performing ensembles during his lifetime, and he was awarded numerous grants and commissions for his work on a worldwide basis.
An advanced case of clinical depression has been the only reason provided as possible diagnosis for Liderman's final act; there really is no definite explanation for it. Indeed, while this may have been part of his psychological makeup, the mood of the title work, Barcelonazo (2004), is one of unbridled joy. Scored for a colorful chamber orchestra and performed with enthusiasm and great consistency by the Eastman Musica Nova under Mark Davis Scatterday, Liderman's Barcelonazo is both Barcelona's answer to Igor Stravinsky's Madrid and yet is something that fully outstrips that earlier work. It is rhythmically compelling, brightly colored, and invested in a mature musical personality that was Liderman's own. This is perceptible in the earlier pieces, as well, although the example of Varèse peeks out of Liderman's Refrains (1995), which was designed as homage to Xenakis. Glimpses (1996), made up of 12 very short pieces, might be the least accessible of the three, but it contains the most concentrated language and perhaps the greatest variety of rhythm and color. Liderman wasn't the kind of talent where you wonder, "Oh, what might have been." In a clear sense, he was already where he needed to be and it was only a matter of moving forward to realize his potential. Perhaps that was part of the problem.
Liderman's recorded repertoire only stretches back to 1990; he is clearly not ready for the "summing up" that Somerset Maugham once exemplified as happening to prominent people when they die. Much of this music is still so ink-wet that to place it in a historical context most do not yet understand, or only do so very subjectively, seems like a pointless exercise. Author Neal Cassady's only book was entitled The First Third as it consisted of his mostly unfinished fiction writings; Cassady's second third was made up of the copious and lengthy letters he wrote and the final third of nothing as he didn't survive long enough to write or even live it. Comparatively, Bridge's Barcelonazo is sort of a summary of Liderman's "first half;" it is impossible for posterity to know what might have made up the second half, as Liderman's decision to check out has deprived listeners of what might have been. It is merely adequate to say that Liderman was an enormous talent among postmodern, academic composers eking out a personal style, and he seems anxious in spots to break out of the mold: it appears in the title work that he finally succeeded in doing so. What this will mean is not for the current generation of critics and scholars to decide; however, the performances here, not only of Eastman Music Nova, but by Camerata de las Americas and the Kiev Philharmonic under Robert Ian Winstin, are true, transparent, and first-rate.