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David Rakowski
Print and web reviews (warts and all), arranged chronologically
The audience was then treated to a new composition by Vermont composer David Rakowski. The work, "Elegy," has been performed as a chorale and a string quartet, but on this occasion it was performed as a work for a fairly large number of strings. Rakowski has not gone unnoticed. For composition, he has been awarded the George Whitefield Chadwick medal from the New England Conservatory of Music and has received the BMI student composer award."Elegy" is an unusually good work. There are intimations of what is best in Stravinsky. One would like to give Rakowski a second hearing. - Stefan Janis, Newark Star-Ledger, March 19, 1984

Rakowski's "Slange," written for Parnassus, had its first performance. The composer calls it a "mini-concertino in five sections." It's a short stretch (about six minutes) of finely worked, agreeable, but unmemorable music, for eight players, with the sound of clarinet and bass clarinet together, as the composer heard them in Parnassus' recent performance of the Schoenberg Serenade, one of its sonic inspirations. - Andrew Porter, The New Yorker, November 12, 1984

Of the works by younger, less established composers ... David Rakowski's "Slange" stood out. It is dark and brooding, making particularly effective use of the darker sonorities of horn and bass clarinet. - Nancy Miller, Boston Globe, November 12, 1985.

David Rakowski's "Duo" (1981) amounted to eight minutes of slightly anguished lyricism, by turns tightly coiled and expansive, and it got what sounded like an assured, capable performance from violinist Gerald Itzkoff and pianist Karen Harvey. - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, March 29, 1988.

I was unable to garner much pleasure from the other three works on the program. ... Joseph Dubiel's "Precis," for clarinet and piano, and David Rakowski's "Duo" for violin and piano both struck me as exercises in schematic sound construction. Both had the virtue of concision. - Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, November, 1988.

... and eight superb members of the Griffin Ensemble, led by Gunther Schuller, in a lively, affectionate performance of David Rakowski's Slange, "a concertino in two movements," the program notes advised, "the second of which was written after the premiere." - Lloyd Schwartz, Boston Phoenix, October 6, 1989

Schuller led the last work, David Rakowski's "Slange" for eight instruments. The program unhelpfully told us the title comes from "memorable scenes" in the film "Local Hero" (which memorable scenes?); the music, conducted and played with conviction, begins with darkly tremulous yearnings and progresses toward equally dark certainties. - Richard Dyer, Boston Globe, September 27, 1989

...the latter (Slange) I found dry and humorless. - George W. Harper, Patriot Ledger, September 27, 1989

" " -- Ellen Pfeifer, Boston Herald, September 28, 1989

The evening ended with David Rakowski's colorful and nicely orchestrated "Slange," a substantial item for eight instruments, including, very effectively, bass clarinet. The gray eminence Gunther Schuller conducted this last piece with care and finesse, taking care to bring off the genuinely rousing finish. - Steve Metcalf, Hartford Courant, September 29, 1989

The Violin Concerto by Rakowski is a little like the Lutoslawski Cello Concerto in that the dialogue between soloist and orchestra relives and dramatizes various kinds of unsettling human relationships before finally reaching a kind of harmonious cooperation that assures us that life can go on. The form is absorbing and the thematic material richly implicative, and the performance, which featured the assured and eloquent Gerald Itzkoff as soloist, made you believe it's all true. - Richard Dyer, Boston Globe, October 1990

David Rakowski's "Violin Concerto," like all scores that aim for avowedly serious goals, resists firm assessment on first hearing. It is both tense and sumptuous, and seemed well-served by the solo playing from Gerald Itzkoff. - Josiah Fisk, Boston Herald, October 17, 1990

Also new is a disc featuring Speculum Musicæ, playing a quartet of works by four composers born in the 1950s (CRI CD 617). The most successful is David Rakowski's Imaginary Dances, a spirited work with much felicitous counterpoint and great rhythmic vitality." - John F. Link, I.S.A.M. Newsletter, Fall 1992

The Rakowski etudes are also in this vein (perpetual motion), the first of them a virtuoso exercise in repeated notes, and the second of them a virtuoso exercise in notes that swirl rather than repeat; it also has some lyric contrast achieved without change of speed. The amusing title is "BAM!" - a note to herself that Harvey left in the music of another Rakowski piece. "BAM!" is as good a word as any for the piece, and the performance. - Richard Dyer, Boston Globe, January 30, 1992.

The Rakowski has aims both more serious and more witty, and it reaches them easily - a rare accomplishment. The two etudes (E-Machines and BAM!) are short, restless, mercurial, full of constant transformations. There are traces of a devilish wit (at one sublimely timed moment, the first notes of Beethoven's "Fuer Elise" (sic) make a teasing hit-and-run appearance) - Josiah Fisk, Boston Herald, January 29, 1992

Next was a world premiere, "Cerberus," by Columbia University professor David Rakowski. This was listed as a concerto for clarinet, although the chamber orchestra itself was more featured. Soloist Beth Wiemann sat within the orchestra, but in a first chair position, such as the solo cello player has with the Sacramento Symphony, and her music was more often than not intermingled with the other instruments, particularly the other two clarinets. She was also required to switch between the B flat clarinet and the bass clarinet, a difficult transition because of the larger mouthpiece, the increased resistance from the instrument due to the larger resonating chamber, and the wider spacing of the keys for fingerings. Now it's not too much of a trick to play the two instruments alternately. The trick is to be able to play them well. Beth Wiemann managed this difficult feat with a lovely sound on each instrument, and impressive technical ability. The third movement, marked "liberamente, quasi cadenza" (why they still use these Italian terms is questionable), but this was Wiemann's chance to show off the low, sonorous tones of the bass clarinet, and she was certainly a pleasure to hear. Rakowski's music has many elements of musical satisfaction, although the performance in the future may be limited by the unusual demands on the soloist. - Clark Mitze, KXJZ Radio (Sacramento), May 13, 1992.

Thus won, the audience proved more than ready for Rakowski's four-movement "Cerberus," a concerto for clarinet and chamber orchestra (13 players) conducted by Bauer. Cerberus was the three-headed dog guarding the gates of Hades; Rakowski uses the image to reflect the fact that the solo clarinet (Beth Wiemann) is backed frequently by another (Diane Maltester) and a bass clarinet (Clark Fobes), although neither is as prominent as the soloist, who also plays bass clarinet. Never mind; just listen to the music, it never snarls at anybody. The four movements lasted 23 minutes, and every one was worth listening to. The scoring was full of wonderful ideas - pairing the French horn (Nowlen, playing well) with the clarinet, for instance, or slipping the oboe (Dennis Harper) in with the three clarinets. Contrast, lively thought, lyric beauty were everywhere, and at least a word must be said for the rich instrumental blend in the slow first movement, for the way flute (Zucker) and a string quartet call gently behind the bass clarinet solo; for the long, lovely reflective passage in the slow third movement, and the way trumpet (John Pearson) and mallets (Tracy Davis) pick up spirits for the finale. Throughout, the playing of Beth Wiemann was supple and expressive and Bauer's conducting seemed right on top of it all. - William Glackin, Sacramento Bee, May 13, 1992.

Concluding the first half of the concert was David Rakowski's "Cerberus" clarinet concerto, the three-headed dog of the titular Greek myth being portrayed by three clarinettists (sic) at the beginning. The interplay, prior to the emergence of the real soloist, the immensely talented Beth Wiemann, gave listeners a Heissenbergian sense of indeterminacy, one which governed the remaining movements.The witty scherzo threw hermetic themes about among the clarinettists, leading to the most accessible movement, the adagio, dominated by Wiemann's switch to the unfamiliar tones of the bass clarinet. I found the frenetic final movement impenetrable on first hearing, but for the sake of the rewards which preceded it, would be eager to hear it again. . . . . (later in the review:) Not one of the works in the concert appears to have been written for academic score-parsers. Wilson's and Rakowski's pieces demand repeated hearings, and if CD producers have any sense of responsibility, listeners will have the chance to immerse themselves in the increasingly rewarding awareness of the music's complexities. - Bill Collins, Davis (California) Enterprise, May 15, 1992.

More structural invention was evident in the New York premiere of "Cerberus" (1991) by David Rakowski, an American composer who was born in 1958 and studied at Princeton and the New England Conservatory. But this 20-minute (sic) concerto for bass clarinet and clarinet (both impressively played by David Gresham), seems at odds with its title. Instead of portraying the fearsome hound with three heads who guarded the gates of Hades, it has an almost pastoral effect; a dreamy, lulling pattern emerged out of layers of suspensions, imitations and resolutions. It is more liquid than animistic. - Edward Rothstein, New York Times, September 23, 1993.

(Lyn) Reyna's piano accompaniment gave the strength necessary in both compositions. She also played a modern solo work by David Rakowski called "Three Etudes for Solo Piano." Machine gun-like repeated notes predominated with not a whole lot of melodic line, a challenge for the pianist and rather hard on a classics-oriented audience. - Janice Riese, Peninsula Times-Tribune (San Jose), precise date unknown (1993)

David Rakowski's "Diverti" consists of three quick character pieces; any sense that the seriousness of its ideas is leavened by wit is confirmed in a program note where Rakowski reveals that he chose the pitches of the work's motto theme by rendering the name "Beth" as B-E-F-F. - Josiah Fisk, Boston Herald, February 3, 1994.

..No placid sitting and humming along. Love it or hate it, grin or grit your teeth, the music required a response.And love I did the two works with soprano Cheryl Marshall ....The U.S. premiere of David Rakowski's "A Loose Gathering of Words" was striking indeed. Conducted by Ross Bauer, the ensemble, in addition to Marshall and (Peter) Josheff, included Diane Maltester, clarinet; Uri Wassertzug, viola; Sarah Fiene, cello; and Thomas Derthick, bass. One poem was especially translated, and three others especially written, for the piece. Referring to night and day, motion and rest, they spoke of the humor and mystery of life.Rakowski's music capitalized on the ability of the soprano to sing with each of the instruments. A cello played and her voice seemed to rise out of its sound, to be its own twin. The first song, from Louise Bogan's translation of Heine's "Death is the Tranquil Night," was as haunting as alien but somehow recognizable dreams.The jazzy "Earthy Anecdote" (text by Wallace Stevens) utilized the ensemble together and the voice moving quickly, but it somehow carried an undertone of threat. For "The Gazelles" (Joseph Duemer), the soprano register was high and the instruments spoke together - gossiped - in low-voiced colloquial conversation.The last section, "World's Saddest Song" by Tom Chandler, featured the saxophone playing against the voice, and clarinet and saxophone in duet. Chords by the other instruments marked the ends of phrases. The end was marked by a palpable, and poignant, silence. - Marilyn Mantay, Davis Enterprise, Jan. 25, 1995

(About A Loose Gathering of Words) Composer David Rakowski's music is extraordinary with its unique beauty. It is complex, yet accessible. As a composer, Rakowski expects enormous abilities from his musicians. For example, the piece opens with a soft, single note on the bass viol and after a few moments, that unison note is joined by the cello. And then the bass drops out and the cello, in turn, passes it onto the viola and drops out. The viola then hands it off to the bass clarinet, and eventually to the B-flat clarinet. Now, such unison playing sounds so simple, but it is exceedingly difficult. It involves different tone registers on each instrument and playing absolute unison is very tricky, especially at certain tempos, and when you are totally exposed. Rakowski's music is impressive in its brilliant craftsmanship, in expressing interesting, listenable and inspiring music. - Clark Mitze, WXJZ Radio (Sacramento), January 22, 1995

Christine Schadeberg ... stepped into the spotlight to sing David Rakowski's settings of Louise Bogan's "Late," "Cassandra," and "To Be Sung on the Water." Mr. Rakowski framed these melancholy poems with dark, angular lines that responded eloquently to the imagery in the texts. - Allan Kozinn, New York Times, April 15, 1995

David Rakowski's "Hyperblue" (1993) was a nontraditional piano trio of strong profile. - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, March 19, 1996

"Hyperblue", by the prolific and inventive David Rakowski, gave the string players equal time, in two jazzy scherzos surrounding a nice schmaltzy slow movement. The piece starts with everybody in unison sounding uncannily like a saxophone, departing from and revisiting that unison as they bop along. Keyes' beautiful sound in the slow movement-warm, fleshly, more vocal than many singers--was matched by Rider in their poignant duet. Shapiro joined them with big Brahmsian arpeggios, sweeping into a tense, jaggedy final scherzo that seemed to go on a little too long without release. - Susan Larson, Boston Globe, April 2, 1996

Trillage is a piece to spend some time with. For the player, this is an etude, and a difficult one. The four-minute performance time will need to multiplied many times in practice. With this piece, that investment of time is worth it. The listener is also gratified. Beyond the swirl of fast notes, Trillage yields lyricism, sensuousness, humor, exhilaration, thorniness, and poetry. It would reward many hearings.Cast as a theme with six variations and a coda, the music changes figuration and character as might be expected, all the while musing on the idea of the trill. Sometimes the trill is merely toyed with, as in the passages that, in the composer's words, "find ways of getting into and out of trills in the contrapuntal voices." At other times, the trill becomes an important motif. Sometimes it accompanies; sometimes it nearly disappears. Occasionally it is attacked head-on, as in the coda where, to quote the composer, "double trills and a triple trill accompany one last stab at a tune." (These are quiet double and triple trills, by the way.) Contrary to trill exercises, and differing from continuous-trill etudes, this piece uses the trill as a sub-plot; the main story is the working out of variations on a theme - a plot carried out with many ingenious creations of rhythm and texture.Written in 1993 for Alan Feinberg, Trillage is the fourth in a series of five piano etudes. All are published by Peters, but only one other, the first, is yet off the press. The titles reveal the composer's humor: E-Machines, BAM!, Nocturnal, Trillage, and Figure Eight.E-Machines is a study in scampering repeated notes. It takes off like a bat out of that place known for its furiously fast bats, and never lets up. For two-and-a-half minutes, the piano whispers, growls, sings, and flits. Just when you realize that "Für Elise" has been quoted, the music is off doing something else. This is fun! When the remaining three etudes are released, "Trillage" and "E-Machines" will be looked at again in these pages in a review of all five pieces. In the meantime, something should be said about their imaginative composer.David Rakowski, born in 1958, studied at the New England Conservatory and Princeton, and taught at Stanford and Columbia. Currently, he is living in Rome as winner of the Rome Prize Fellowship of the American Academy. When he returns, he will teach at Brandeis. A trombonist, he knows enough about the keyboard to make pianists sweat. - Bradford Gowen, Piano & Keyboard Magazine, March/April 1996.

And it is hard to imagine that David Rakowski's "Sesso e Violenza," a concertino featuring two flutes and commissioned by the ensemble, would have got any listener hot and bothered without the composer's program note about the instrument's sexiness and violence in its extreme registers. It is hard to imagine that it did so anyway, though the maundering unisons worked the conductor, Peter Jarvis, into an incongruous lather with their evident metrical complexity. - James R. Oestreich, New York Times, March 17, 1997.

David Rakowski's "Imaginary Dances" (1986), which had been composed for the crack Speculum Musicae ensemble, understandably delights in giving each player - there are eight - some sporty solo work to do, this against an instrumental mass that contrives to be both bright and dense. It was nothing if not busy, as if a positive horror of empty staves - also known as "Roger Sessions Syndrome" - had been stalking the young composer. - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, October 21, 1997.


In contrast [to a piece by Eric Zivian], Rakowski's "Sesso y Violenza" (sic) - really a concerto for two flutes, as conducted by George Thomson - was fascinating. The opening unison - (list of players given) - was so astounding and smooth that it best can be called cool.The flutes began to emerge as a duo, creating their own unison, each gradually emerging as a solo instrument. The limit was reached when Brody took up the piccolo and Krejci the alto flute. Trios ensued, as the flutes with the marimba, but much of the time short motives, like fragments of melody, were heard from the other instruments. I did not find these little soundings distracting. - Marilyn Mantay, Davis Enterprise, November 4, 1997.

David Rakowski evidently has a passion for writing etudes, and your writer's quick impression is that they tend to be rhapsodic, colorful, and visually oriented, and that they are strangely and tersely unpredictable, no two alike. The four here, dating from 1988 to 1996, could have been about machines or dust motes, and was that a near-quotation (hastily though better of) from Beethoven's "Fuer Elise"? - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, February 4, 1998

(about the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra) Yet "conductorless" is a more relative term than it might seem. In a new work, David Rakowski's "Persistent Memory," Eric Bartlett, who as principal cellist dominated the quiet opening and close, conducted virtually throughout with his head. In a bobbing adaptation of conductorial patterns, he delineated the shifting meters, alternating, for example, between quadruple and quintuple, and cued other players with his eyes.Mr. Rakowski's work, a moving memorial to a patron, is also effective in strictly musical terms, beginning in elegy and, after animated variations, slumping back into it. After a slight lack of intonational focus at the start, the performance was a fine exercise in sustained intensity - James R. Oestreich, New York Times, March 10, 1998

Elsewhere, the group showed off some of its other noted members. Mary Rowell, who has been touted through some glamorously fashioned promotion as the newest fiddling sensation, performed a fun work by David Rakowski written especially for her and her electric viola (sic). This ten-minute composition calls for certain effects, such as bent strings (which create the wha-wha sound), but they are never overdone. One movement entitled "Fumando" really is smokin', while "Lazy" is a foot-tapping bit of the blues. But the outer movements are familiarly straight, the final portion being fast and boiling but still relatively low-key. - New Music Connoisseur, Summer, 1998

Rakowski is a composer with a sense of humor, and a gift for communicative clarity of expression. Having started out in music as a non-classical player, and then subsequently studying with Babbitt and Berio (among others) he has emerged as a composer who is not afraid of complexity but who seems always concerned to dress it up in appealing colors, viscerally arousing dynamic activity or some other attribute to assure its ready approachability. The largest work here, Sesso e Violenza is a tour de force, which is almost guaranteed to leave the listener breathless by the end. - CD review on RecordsInternational.com, July 1999.

One artist who's visited Voices often is soprano Christine Schadeberg, a virtuoso performer of new music who nver seems to be fazed by offbeat and difficult writing. She was featured in two compositions Monday night" The Burning Woman Revisited by David Rakowski and Backyard Songs by Don Freund.The former amounts to an intriguing duet for soprano and clarinet in which both occasionally take the same melodic line but then quickly diverge. The music effectively mirrors four enigmatic texts. Mr. Powell was Ms. Schadeberg's clarinet partner, and reader Jane MacFarland gave a preview of the words. - Olin Chism, Dallas Morning News, October 1, 1998

Earplay then performed a work dedicated to it by David Rakowski, now teaching at Brandeis University. It is called "La Roba", "stuff" in Italian, and is divided into three sections of varying tempi. It begins very rapidly, lingers in a slow, eloquent middle part, then scurries away in a very busy final movement. It was filled with interesting details, loud bursts, rapid unison lines placed among sustained chords. The "Pierrot Lunaire" ensemble - flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano - ably and with great success fulfilled the composer's intentions for line and color and motion. Unfortunately, the ending didn't work and it seemed wrong; it suddenly broke off. All that energy can't just stop without preparation; the effect was disquieting. - Marvin Tartak, San Francisco Classical Voice, January 26, 1999

David Rakowski’s Persistent Memory is a compelling, skillfully shaped, substantial work, replete with moving lyricism and elegant melodies. — Jury Report, Pulitzer Prizes, March 21, 1999.

It's that time of year when a handful of young composers gathers at Wellesley College for the experience of having their music scrutinized, discussed, performed and recorded, with the additional benefit of having a pair of composers in residence (sometimes former fellows themselves) nearby to point the way. To David Rakowski fell the first of the two "Conversations With Composers" events in which those composers show their wares. It will be his colleague Lee Hyla's turn on Thursday, same time, same place.Born in 1958 in St. Albans, Vt., and educated at the New England Conservatory of music and Princeton University, Rakowski played in a rock band when he was young. Why does one note this? In part because it's no longer worthy of note. Any classically trained American composer below a certain age who hadn't done so would probably be the exception nowadays.As to what else this tells us, intuitions and prejudices will differ. Unless this writer missed it, not once in his talk Thursday night did Rakowski mention any other composer by name, living or dead. The music itself had a self-contained, self-possessed tone, as if completely confident that it was saying exactly what was intended in the manner intended. Could it all have been as tidy-minded, painless, and ahistorical as it sounded? To these ears, instrument and voice inhabited noncontiguous worlds, arbitrarily at odds musical spaces -- both in the clarinet and soprano settings (The Burning Woman Revisited, words by Joseph Duemer, 1997) and in the piano and clarinet one (To Be Sung on the Water, words by Louise Bogan, 1989). If each, on its own, had a certain sensuous charge, that's because they were, after all, made up of variations in air pressure, timbre, overtones -- they were physical sound. But combined, they came to little more than a thin, grayish fog of abstraction, of having been willed into existence.How odd that it was the music we heard in recorded performance that proved to have blood in its veins. "Persistent Memory", composed for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, with its elegiac but strangely taut slow music, showed a degree of rhythmic life and invention more convincing than when Rakowski was working with faster tempos, whether in that piece or in the twee motoric Clarinet Quintet that he wrote for the 50th anniversary of Brandeis, where he is a faculty member. - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, July 31, 1999.

Blistering, Lyrical, Boisterous. Rakowski's music is all about energy -- his music is the rarest of this genre in that it contains the vibrancy of bebop or rock, with the lyricism and smarts of the best of the European tradition. Envision this: Alban Berg, standing onstage in a smokey nightclub in 1950s New York, burning it up on his sax, while Maurice Ravel comps on the keys, and the Ramones provide the rhythm section. After you're through with that vision, rub your eyes, put on a clean t-shirt, and go out and buy this CD. Somebody hand this guy the Pulitzer. - 'A Music Fan from Topeka, Kansas', on-line review, Amazon.com, August 18, 1999.

Rakowski, a Brandeis faculty member who has been patiently amassing a remarkable set of piano etudes over recent years ('Pollici e Mignoli' for thumbs and pinkies only, 'Touch Typing' for index fingers, 'Plucking A' for reaching inside the instrument), was represented by yet more of same: 'E-machines' (1988) and 'BAM!' (1991), done by Nonken to even more of a fare-thee-well than on 'Hyperblue,' an all-Rakowski compilation on the CRI label. - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, October 19, 1999.

Mr. Rakowski, whose relentlessly virtuosic 'E-machines' (1988) and 'Bam!' (1991) opened the program, is an unusually accomplished eclectic. Even as a listener notes a parade of influences, from Minimalism to jazz, the music somehow maintains a sense of consistency. - Allan Kozinn, New York Times, October 20, 1999.

David Rakowski (born 1958) is on the composition faculty at Brandeis University. He studied with Robert Ceely and Babbitt, among others, and with Berio at Tanglewood. Rakowski's music shows a concern for note-to-note (and line-to-line) relationships, including at least a smattering of serial technique in the Babbitt and Ceely vein, with a more motoric, pulse-driven rhythmic base for nearly every piece represented here. Rakowski's work shows an energy akin to rock music, but he doesn't at all rely on rock's gestures and cliches, and his compositional craft is worlds away from that genre.Since 1988 Rakowski has been writing an apparently haphazard series of piano etudes that also seem to serve as compositional etudes; the most recent of these on this disc is No. 14 (Martler), from 1997, and there are 20 (or more) by now. Marilyn Nonken performs five of them here. E-Machines (Etude No. 1, 1988) and BAM! (Etude No. 2, 1991) form a related pair. Both feature a more or less constant stream of fast notes. E-Machines is a study on repeated notes; BAM! contains a punctuating chord that occurs within the otherwise steady and fast stream. Les Arbres embues (Etude No. 7, 1995) is much slower music, a quiet melody with chordal accompaniment. Corrente (Etude No. 10, 1996) is another rapid-note etude with a slowly evolving melody in the right hand. Martler (Etude No. 14) is a perpetual-motion crossing-hands exercise. A quotation from Smoke on the Water in this etude is symptomatic of both Rakowski's awareness of rock music and the wise-guy sense of humor that crops up in many of his pieces.A perpetual-motion section shows up in many of Rakowski's pieces, including the first movement of Hyperblue, a piano trio (1991-93). There are wrenches thrown in the works from moment to moment, odd eighth notes among the 16ths, for example, the constant forward motion stuttering but never ceasing. The second movement is more lyrical, the strings providing intertwining lines, the piano an arpeggiated accompaniment that becomes a figure in itself. The last movement is more chordal, with again a distinct, fast pulse, but yet more staggered than in the first movement. Attitude Problem, a later trio (1996-97), shows similarly balanced approach to the ensemble, similar rhythm-pulse ideas, similar line-against-line writing, even a similar three-movement form. The details of the two are different, but the mood is enough the same to make me wonder about the need to have both of them on this disc. Probably greater familiarity would throw their differences into sharper relief, though.Sesso e Violenza (1995-96) is a slightly larger (23 minutes) ensemble piece, with two solo flutes (one doubling piccolo, the other alto flute) and small ensemble. In this piece Rakowski often makes a composite solo of the two flutes, enabled the more by the sensitivity among the players. The slight expansion of the timbral palette over the piano trios does the music well, allowing a more sensuous side of Rakowski's music to come out, unlike the more detached lyricism of the string writing in the trios. The Three Songs on Poems of Louise Bogan (1989) also touches on this kind of lyricism in the vocal writing, but the setting of the texts and the overall tone of the songs seem lacking in real conviction. Rakowski's oft-used rhythmic drive is a shadow of its usual self. "Late" and "To Be Sung on the Water," which bracket the set as slowish fast movements, in a way, lack the conviction of their instrumental counterparts.Performances are convincing, especially the virtually symbiotic ensemble work in Sesso e Violenza and Marilyn Nonken's readings of the Etudes. Altogether this is a solid and enjoyable collection exhibiting a very high level of energy and craft as well as a consistently expressive compositional voice. - Robert Kirzinger, Fanfare Magazine, January/February, 2000.
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