Monday, October 10, 2011

Nasseri performs music of Haskell Small on Naxos

Thursday night, at Strathmore, I picked up an “American Classics” Naxos CD of the music of Washington DC composer Haskell Small, played by pianist Soheil Nasseri, who had given a concert that evening.

The first and main work is a six-movement  (29 minutes) piece for narrator and  solo piano, “Lullaby of War”, 2007, actually commissioned for Mr. Nasseri, with Martin Rayner, Narrator.  The six poem s are by Stephen Crane (“War Is Kind”  -- the author is familiar for “The Red Badge of Courage”), Joy Harjo (“No”), Yvan Goll (“Recitative”),  Uri Zvi Greenberg (“Naming Souls”), Walt Whitman (“Look Down, Fair Moon”), Paula Tatarunis, “Guernica Pantoum”.  The pieces are linked by a blocked-chord but dissonant “prayer theme” reminiscent of Ives.

The second suite (27 minutes) is “Renoir’s Feast” (2005), in sixteen miniatures, which sound like a mix of Poulenc and Ives. It’s  called “A Musical Celebration of The Luncheon of the Boating Party” and was commissioned by the Phillips Collection, near Dupont Circle, whose chamber and solo recitals I sometimes attended in the 1960s, in the days before my own military service, when the draft hung over the heads of young men as an obligation to be escaped from, obliquely.

The last composition is “Three Etudes in Sound” (1993): “Layers”, “Swirls and Spikes” and “Sustained”.

The website for the album on Naxos is here

Here is a video of Haskell Small performing “Fur Alina” by Arvo Part.

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