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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Gerald Cohen, Voyagers, New Music for String Quartet, Clarinet and Trombone


Ah, great, somebody I've never heard of has works I've never heard," some reader I've never heard of either might be saying as she confronts this article. OK, so I ain't gonna get rich covering the super new and in fact in the internet focus on immediate and continuous readership, I might be consigning myself to a kind of internet Siberia? Nonetheless I cover things I listen to closely, critically and actually like so you have nothing to lose in the reading of this, I believe. Today I cover another you might not know about, though I might also cover something famous now and again. 

With the exception of a nicely wrought chamber offering of music for clarinet and chamber ensemble, entitled Sea of Reeds, that I covered on these pages on December 17, 2014,  I've not delved into much of the music of Gerald Cohen in my listening over time. But this recording of  Voyagers (Innova 090) confirms my initial impression with a revelation, for his is a distinct and authentic voice in the New Music today. 

The album brings to our ears three substantial works for string quartet, as is as performed by the Cassatt String Quartet on the "Playing for Our Lives" work, with the addition of the clarinet and bass clarinet of Narek Arutyunian on "Voyagers," and with the addition of the trombone of Colin Williams on "Preludes and Debka."

None of these three works are especially Avant Garde in approach. Rather they dwell in a Modernity where there is a wide harmonic spectrum of possibility and a rugged tone color palette and also a healthy dose of the eclecticity of folk and ethnic elements, sometimes what sound like Semitic elements that injects a timeless quality to it all.

What matters in the end is the authentic and dedicated performativity of it all, the highly crafted and careful building of a particular work from the ground up with great care, skill, and eloquently inventive qualities.

Anyone who wants a good example of what is happening in the chamber realms of New Music would do well to check this one out. Take a listen and decide for yourself, but keep in mind that several listens will be necessary to hear these works as they actually reveal themselves. Check this link:


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