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ClassicsOnline Home » CLASS OF '38
The eight composers on this compilation, all of them born in 1938, adhere to no single trend or movement, yet each is united by an uncompromising determination to transgress boundaries and expectations in pursuit of artistic autonomy. The representative selections presented here, with their beguiling mixture of lucidity and complexity, dissonance and lyricism, compel repeated listening for music lovers of all tastes and inclinations. Were the musicians of the “Class of ‘38” to express a collective credo, they might very well adopt the words of John Harbison, who famously defined his aesthetic intent “to make each piece different from the others, to find clear, fresh large designs, to reinvent traditions.”
CLASS OF '38
A remarkable percentage of important modern composers were born in 1938, considerably more than in any other year during the 20th century. One might expect that bringing together a number of these artists would reveal obvious linking motifs, yet the reality proves just the opposite. Far from representing a unified school, the eight composers included on this disc have interpreted and assimilated the musical developments of the past 100 years in strikingly individual and idiosyncratic ways. Whatever aesthetic or philosophic affinities they may share are expressed in discrete musical languages that could not be more varied in structure, tone and color.
The fierce diversity of the tracks on this compilation is reflective of 20th century music as a whole, with its staggering range of innovation and expression. Discerning listeners will note the presence of such familiar touchstones as minimalism, serialism and polystylism, but there is nothing programmatic about their application in these pieces. The dissonant modernism in the third movement of Gloria Coates’ Symphony No.15 is worlds away from the limpid warmth of Charles Wuorinen’s Renaissance-inspired Josquiniana. The angular contours conjured in John Corigliano’s A Black November Turkey find distinct counterpoint in the adagio of William Bolcom’s serene yet stealthily subversive Cello Sonata. José Serebrier demonstrates expressive melodic grace in his Fantasia (for strings), while Joan Tower marshals powerful rhythmic forces to dramatic effect in her aptly titled Tambor. The harsh, trance-inducing repetition of Frederic Rzewski’s “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues” (from his Four North American Ballads) is contrasted with the dark-hued introspection of John Harbison’s Piano Trio No. 1.
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