Kurt Rohde is that most precious of commodities, the self-taught composer. I say precious because to develop as a productive practitioner of the compositional arts, it becomes increasingly rare that one does not go through the conservatory/university system, at least in the areas of chamber and orchestral music.
Kurt Rohde has done just that. It goes some distance in explaining his originality. One (Innova 839) is a recent volume devoted to his chamber music. The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the Empyrean Ensemble, and soloists (including Kurt on viola) do a fine job teasing out the intricacies of Rohde's style, which is neither strictly modernist nor post-modernist in the usual senses.
Four works are presented, together giving a good aural picture of the spectrum of musical sounds that comprise the Kurt Rohde universe.
The title work "One: For Speaking Pianist on Texts of Jacob Stein" combines nicely a complex kinetically-charged piano part and a rhythmically parallel chant-recitation of the poetic text. Genevieve Feiwen Lee performs her role convincingly.
There are two chamber concerto works, "Concertino for Violin and Small Ensemble" and "Double Trouble for Two Violas and Small Ensemble." The former manages to be lyric, complexly modern and filled at times with a dramatically charged rhythmic energy. "Double Trouble" further accentuates the rhythmical contrapuntal element in masterful ways.
"Four Remixes for Piano Trio" is a rather zany yet quite formidable work. There is lyricism, rock-pulsating insistence for one movement, and a quote from the Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" all convincingly woven together into a four-movement tapestry.
Thank you to Innova for making this vibrant music possible for us to enjoy. The San Francisco concert scene is lucky to have Kurt Rohde as a resident. He has much talent. I hope we can hear more of his work. For now this volume is a keeper.