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CD Review

David Chesky

Chesky 379

The Venetian Concertos

  • Venetian Concerto #3
  • Venetian Concerto #1
  • Venetian Concerto #2
  • Venetian Concerto #4
Orchestra of the 21st Century
Chesky JD379 62:20
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In the brief album notes, Dave Eggar states that the quartet of Chesky concertos on this disc "are a tribute to the classic concerto grosso form", noting that they are "…cast in the style of the great works of Corelli and Vivaldi…" Eggar then declares that they are "radically original." But wouldn't a pastiche by its very nature be limited in its scope of originality? It would seem so. Well, I won't quibble over this issue, since the only truly important question here is, how good is the music?

As many readers may be aware, David Chesky is a major figure on the contemporary scene, writing in an eclectic style that takes in elements from both the classical and jazz genres. Here Chesky presents four very interesting concertos that come down largely on the classical side, though some funk, jazz, bebop and other styles enter into the very busy contrapuntal fabric, even if they often seem to mask their identity somewhat. Cast in three short movements that follow a fast-slow-fast form, the works typically last about fifteen or sixteen minutes each. The finales to all four appear to contain the most dramatic and complex music. The scoring is for strings and flute, with the latter having a quite prominent part.

I've already called the music "interesting", but I'll go further: Chesky has taken this Baroque form and its musical spirit into the 21st century with some very imaginative rhythmic and harmonic twists, and some very clever, well…mutations. You may get the impression initially that you're listening to an updated take on the Baroque, but then evolutionary activity of various sorts occurs and the music enters into an almost otherworldly place that is part-modern, part-Baroque and part-weird. It's all quite engaging and imaginative music that is accessible for most listeners.

At times the music vaguely reminds me of some of the contrapuntal writing style of Hindemith, and maybe there are moments when hints, just barely hints, of Stravinsky can be heard. In a way, one could say that with these four works Chesky does something similar to what Prokofiev did when he wrote his popular masterwork The Classical Symphony, the first foray into Neoclassical music. Thus, I can understand the claim that the music is "radically original." I doubt any of these works will become as popular as the Prokofiev, but I can see #3 having a chance at repertory status. Speaking of #3, it leads off the disc and the rest of the works are presented in the order I have listed in the heading. I suspect Chesky, like me, liked his Concerto #3 best of the four and thus decided to place it first.

As for the performances, they are uniformly excellent: I could find virtually no information on the Orchestra of the 21st Century, but they play very well. No conductor is credited in the album information – might it be Chesky himself? The flutist, who plays brilliantly, is also unnamed. The sound reproduction is vivid and well balanced, fully state-of-the-art. I highly recommend this disc to those looking for something quite new and bold, but very accessible as well.

Copyright © 2016, Robert Cummings