FOSS: “Piece’s of Genius” – three chamber works – var. soloists – Albany

FOSS: “Piece’s of Genius” – three chamber works – NY New Music Ensemble / Jean Kopperud, clar./ Stephen Gosling, p./ Linda Quan & Deborah Wang, violins/ Lois Martin, viola/ Christopher Finckel, cello – Albany Troy CD 1644, 62:17 (10/1/16) ***1/2:

A fine survey of Foss chamber music covering a quarter century of composition.

It was sad when Lukas Foss passed in 2009. He was a creative maelstrom of ideas, and while never truly mainstream, he was influential in the musical world, and he has left us a rich collection of music.

Foss was an advocate of and became fascinated by the possibilities offered by aleatoric or “chance” music, and set up an improvisation ensemble. He was well-known as a conductor as well as a composer, and in life he was controversial, being praised and attacked by fellow musicians.

This CD features the renowned New York Music Ensemble performing three of Foss’s chamber works. This collection is presented in reverse chronological order of composition. The recording opens with Tashi (1986), working its way backwards through Solo Observed (1982), and concludes with Echoi (1961-63).

This is music that is challenging to listen to, and difficult to play. The NYME excels at these contemporary compositions, and although each piece is very different, they move through them with aplomb and precision.

The recording is a good one, with microphones close in as would be expected for a Foss recording. The recording venue feels like a large one, with lots of ‘air’ around the instruments.

This disc represents a nice sampling of Foss’s output, at least as far as his chamber music is concerned. The musicians are well up to the task of these difficult rhythms and syncopations. Everyone should get some Lukas Foss into their musical lives, and this disc is a good place to start or continue your exploration.

—Mel Martin

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