Andrew Rudin’s String Sonatas

Andrew Rudin

Three String Sonatas

Centaur CD CRC 3266


Composer Andrew Rudin worked on his three string sonatas in stages, premiering initial versions and then substantially revising them. He has also orchestrated two of the three into concertos (the violin and viola sonatas). The consummate craftsmanship is evident. These are pieces where every note counts and there is an evident emotional quality behind every gesture.


Although the connection to Debussy is seldom overt, Rudin cites his cello sonata as a touchstone. The four movements are structured so that each one gains a minute of runtime, moving from a lithe two minute “Proclamation” to a lyrical five minute long “Consolation.” The balance and pacing of the piece’s design is supported by the clarity and strong ensemble interplay of the performance by cellist Samuel Magill and pianist Beth Levin.


Written in memory of George Rochberg (the piece includes a quote from Rochberg’s Second Symphony), Rudin’s Viola Sonata has enjoyed a staunch advocate in Brett Deubner. Indeed, according to Rudin the violist made many valuable suggestions during the work’s genesis. Deubner also gave the premiere of the viola concerto based upon the work with Orchestra 2001. Joined here by the talented pianist Marcantonio Barone, the violist brings out the many demeanors and techniques present in the sonata – from lithe pizzicatos to angular melodic gestures – with nuance of dynamic shape and enviable accuracy.


Rudin’s Violin Sonata is cast in a single movement, marked “Amabile.” Within it is an imaginative formal design in which materials return recast with different demeanors. Thus, as Rudin describes it, “they are often heard in a manner that inverts their original emotional quality, so that what was wistful becomes angry, what was playful becomes nostalgic, etc.” The piece is given an extraordinarily detailed and passionate performance here by violinist Miranda Cuckson and pianist Steven Beck. If one is seeking music that balances technical rigor with strong emotional impact, they need look no further than Rudin’s sonatas.



Tre Voci on ECM

Kashkashian - Tre Voci Cover 2345

Tre Voci

Works by Debussy, Takemitsu, and Gubaidulina

Marina Piccinini, Flute; Kim Kashkashian, viola; Sivan Magen, harp

ECM New Series CD 2345


One of his last completed works, Claude Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp (1915) has been variously construed as a crystallization of Impressionism into a neoclassical mold, a nod to Debussy’s French compositional ancestors Rameau and Couperin, and an outlier in an otherwise venturesome output. I’m of the opinion that it is none of these things. Instead, the work is a late career example of the composer seeking out what was for him new formal terrain and compositional challenges. The performance on this ECM recording by flutist Marina Piccinini, violist Kim Kashkashian, and harpist Sivan Magen is utterly beguiling, with fluid interplay between the players, rhythmically decisive execution, and incandescent voicing of the work’s entrancing harmonies.


Toru Takemitsu frequently mentioned Debussy as a significant touchstone for his work. And then I knew ‘twas Wind’s title is inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem. This piece for the same forces as Debussy’s sonata is clearly written as an homage. Yet at the same time, it has a different style of pacing, an ebb and flow and a textural fragility that distinguish it from its predecessor.  Sofia Gubaidulina’s Garten von Freuden und Traurigkeiten adopts the works of multiple poets as reference points: Iv Oganov and Francisco Tanzer. The latter’s lines even make an appearance at the end of the piece as a spoken word component. Frequent harp glissandos and pianissimo effects from the viola are offset by alternately angular and voluptuous flute melodies. A surprising, yet engaging, response to Debussy.