Regarded as the dean of American serial composers and a pioneer in electronic music, Milton Babbitt was admired for his uncompromising dedication to his art and his meticulous craftsmanship. The six works on this collection range from his coolly pointillistic Composition for Twelve Instruments (1948) to a poignant vocal work, From the Psalter (2002), showing the variety of his expressions. However, the program's chronological order reveals not so much an evolution through changing styles as the refinement of his methods and the maturation of his voice. One finds few differences in the angularity, stratification, and density of such pieces as Correspondences (1967), Paraphrases (1979), and The Crowded Air (1988), though they show a progressive mastery of serial practices at all levels that is fully incorporated into a complex but recognizable personal language. The exception is the surprisingly accessible All Set (1957), which Babbitt composed for jazz orchestra in a hybrid of serial techniques and jazz sonorities, demonstrating the adaptability of the method to a genre outside the usual academic purview. This collection is a handsome tribute to Babbitt, and the performances by Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, with soprano Lucy Shelton singing From the Psalter, are committed and quite polished in these studio recordings.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson