Andrejs Jansons

The Music of Helen Tobias Duesberg

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Helen Tobias Duesberg's conservative Requiem may be described as a hybrid of the neo-Baroque and neo-Classical styles she absorbed in the middle decades of the twentieth century, though some aspects of Romanticism are evident in her instrumentation and presentation. Bach's cantatas are the most pronounced influences, though Duesberg's forays into fugue seem at times closer to Beethoven's forceful counterpoint in his Missa Solemnis. But because this Requiem seems designed for practical use -- specifically for the Estonian Bethany Church of New York -- Duesberg's use of traditional techniques is perhaps intended more for the congregation's spiritual comfort than as a clever pastiche. That said, Duesberg's Missa pro defunctis is less intellectually stimulating than her shorter chamber works, which are represented here by the darkly chromatic Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano and the comical Suite for woodwind quintet, both of which reveal more of Duesberg's character, since imitation of past models is replaced by her own ingenuity and craft. The SONORE choir, the various vocal soloists, and the RLB Symphony Orchestra, under Andrejs Jansons, render the Requiem with drama and dignity, while violinist Andris Baumanis and pianist Ventis Zilberts play the sonata with dark intensity, and the Woodwind Quintet of the Latvian National Opera gives a dry but entertaining account of the Suite.

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