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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Yotam Haber, Torus, Chamber Music 2007-2013

Not everything contained in our world is written in our books, to paraphrase Shakespeare. When new music is very new, that can especially be the case. Composer Yotam Haber, Holland-born and Israel-, Nigeria- and Milwaukee-bred, is such an example.

He writes music that is beyond minimalism, though shares some of its traits; repetition is very secondary when present. There is more linear development. We can hear a good cross-sample of his chamber music from 2007-2014 on the album Torus (Roven 10015). There are five works in all and they illuminate various aspects of the composer's way. The chamber group Contemporaneous and the Mivos Quartet do the performance honors with sensitivity and skill. The title work "Torus" (2007, revised 2014), a string quartet, is perhaps the tour de force, with sometimes extraordinarily frenetic passages contrasted with quietude. It is mostly tonal but has the trajectory and rhythmic abstracted quality of a Ligeti work--though in its particular, original way.

"From the Book of Maintenance and Sustenance" (2014), scored for viola and piano, is the most recent work. It is a somber, dirge-like piece that has a notable Jewish tinge at first, then spatial qualities and extra-tonal embellishments of modernism. It ultimately segues into more elaborate developmental passages. It is a most moving moment.

"We Were All" (2012) is scored for vocal group and chamber ensemble. It is more episodic and contrasting than minimal, though it combines a minimal timbral mixture with brief repetitions and a contemporary chamber sound.

"On Leaving Brooklyn" (2004) has its own way with vocal quartet and violin, combining the two elements of "We Were All" but in a more elemental mode.

"Last Skin" (2012) brings in dramatic gestural sounds and sound blocks for strings with a very contemporary-modern slant.

So there we have it. This is music of imagination and high interest, a very contemporary development of factors that most squarely places us in the present with personal syntheses of the developments of the past 50 years. It shows us a Yotam Haber who is carving his own niche in contemporary music. The performances are rather brilliant and worthy of the music. Recommended.

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