Mary Chun / Earplay

William Kraft: Vintage Renaissance and Beyond

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William Kraft, composer and longtime member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was a key figure in the diffusion of Igor Stravinsky's later music in the U.S. This little selection of Kraft's music shows its derivation from Stravinsky without sounding like any specific aspect of his style, which is all to the good. Further, the five works span a period from 1961 and 2005, and they hold together as a group without sounding much like one another. The connection to Stravinsky, which involves the use of instrumental groupings to comment on preexisting materials or fixed structures established by the ongoing composition itself, is most evident in the opening Vintage Renaissance and Beyond, a set of three ensemble elaborations on actual Renaissance melodies, presented with greater or lesser fidelity to their original forms. The rest of the music is more closely focused on percussion, but the sense of elaboration and commentary, which would have been close to Stravinsky's heart, carries over into each work in a different way. Perhaps the strongest is the Concerto for four percussion soloists and symphonic wind ensemble (1995), adapted from a version for soloists and orchestra; here the winds at first play a subtle, ornamental role but gradually expand their discourse. The rest of the music is more concerned with the potentialities of percussion instruments, but this, too, is a kind of commentary on the instruments' usual timbres. A nice selection of music, enjoyably performed by a varied group of players, from a landmark figure of contemporary music in the U.S.

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