Leon Kirchner: Duo No. 2 for Violin and Piano
Roger Sessions: Solo Sonata, movement 1
Arnold Schoenberg: Phantasy
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The following review is an excerpt from Editor's Corner (July 2021) which can be read in its entirety here.
Violinist Elizabeth Chang says that American composer Leon Kirchner (1919-2009) had a “profound artistic and pedagogical influence” on her as an undergraduate at Harvard. Reflecting on the relationships formed with her own students and on how “the particularity of the teacher/student relationship […] bears fruit in our evolution as human beings and musicians,” she conceived of Transformations (Albany Records TROY1850 albanyrecords.com). It features works for violin alone and in duo with piano and cello by Kirchner and his teachers Roger Sessions and Arnold Schoenberg, both “pioneers in seeking a new compositional language in the post-tonal world while being deeply rooted in the Germanic tradition.” Chang goes on to tell us that “Kirchner’s voice reflects the thorny complexity of modernism while palpably reaching for the sensuality of the musical language of a previous era.” The disc begins with a late work by Kirchner, the Duo No.2 for Violin and Piano (2002) in which this approach is aptly demonstrated. Sessions’ extended Solo Sonata follows, a four-movement mid-career work dating from 1953, and then his brief and evocative Duo for Violin and Cello from 1978. Schoenberg’s Phantasy Op.47 for violin and piano, written in 1949, completes a compelling disc. “Thorny complexity” notwithstanding, I found it interesting to notice my wife moving rhythmically along with this supposedly academic fare as we listened while playing our daily game of cribbage, one of our COVID stay-at-home routines. She isn’t normally engaged by the music when I’m doing my “homework” listening.