Pity Paid

music of Jeffrey Stadelman

performed by the Slee Sinfonietta and Movses Pogossian,violin

conducted by Magnus Mí¤rtensson

Centaur Records

  • Pity Paid for violin solo and chamber orchestra
  • Kinderszenen for five players
  • Mr. Natural for trumpet and piano
  • Starry Wisdom for chamber orchestra

These four offerings by Jeffrey Stadelman show different facets of an active and thorny pitch language coupled with frantic rhythms and intense blotches of sonic color.   Each work on the disc is programmatic in some way, shape, or form, but the programmatic aspect is largely oblique.   Each piece works well in its own dramatic space.

Pity Paid, for violin and chamber orchestra, races by on an aggressive and lithe engine with clean and concise gestures and textures.   Through all the activity, though, I never get a feeling of emotional or dramatic padding.   Every note and shape counts, every moment matters.   Kinderszenen gathers up eleven short movements for flute, trumpet, piano/celesta, percussion, and cello.   Most of the moments burst with energy and intensity but there is the occasional serene and tranquil meditation.   My one quibble with the piece is that all of the movements are lumped into a single track and I would prefer to be able to isolate the different movements.   Hardly worth mentioning, but I do it anyway.

The trumpet and piano piece Mr. Natural highlights an interesting philosophical point.   What is “natural” music?   The composer describes the opening punctuations as “naturalistic” and that the piece then continues through “non-organic” adventures.   I certainly don’t hear the piece that way, simply because my definition of “natural” is different from Stadelman’s.   Not right or wrong, just different.   Mr. Natural is a muscly piece full to the brim with tight and punchy, aggressively pointillistic music.   I whole-heartily agree with the “non-organic” nature of the piece and I agree with the composer that there is an underlying darkly humorous statement being made.

The chamber orchestra finale of the disc, Starry Wisdom, keeps up the pace of dense, short, colorful punctuations that is present in each work on this recording.   My impression of Jeffrey Stadelman’s music after hearing this CD is one of a powerful and caged beast which is barely contained by its enclosure.   Stadelman’s gestures are finely chiseled works that flash by the listener like fireworks.   Every second on this CD was meticulously composed and expertly performed.

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