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GERBER:   Five Pieces for Virtual Instruments. Symphony No. 8  OTTAVA 13-012 (56:23)

Cosmic Consciousness
(Ottava Records) presents the music of contemporary American composer Jerry Gerber. In recent issues of Fanfare, I reviewed (and recommended) two other Ottava releases of Gerber compositions: Home and Love in a Disordered World (21-015), and Earth Music (19-014). In my initial review (of Home and Love), I characterized Jerry Gerber’s music: “Gerber composes in a highly accessible and melodic style. His virtual orchestrations are rich and varied in instrumental colors, and the scoring is unfailingly transparent.” That characterization holds true for the music featured on all three discs. I will add that the more I listen to Jerry Gerber’s works, the more I find myself engaged and moved by them. Gerber’s music has a fluency, momentum, and vitality that reward repeated engagement.

Cosmic Consciousness opens with Gerber’s Five Pieces for Virtual Instruments. The first, Shadow Play, is a vigorous dance number with a Middle Eastern flavor. Baroquette juxtaposes a lively perpetuum mobile episode with more lyrical and introspective music. Luminous Night Nebulous Light is a slow-tempo piece, spotlighting both the solo violin and chorus (Gerber often weaves vocal parts into the fabric of his instrumental pieces). In Seraphim on a Subway, synthesizer elements and a string ostinato are the restless underpinning for a plaintive soprano voice. The concluding Shadow Work is a quicksilver Mendelssohnian scherzo, spiced with African and Middle Eastern percussion instruments (Djembe, Riq, Darbuka). The Symphony No. 8 is in four movements (or “Parts” as the composer designates). The first, opening with a slow-tempo introduction, is based upon an undulating theme that bears a resemblance to its counterpart in the Tchaikovsky First Symphony. The restive spirit of Part I continues in its successor. Part III is a haunting, introspective slow-tempo movement. A syncopated horn figure launches the finale, a relentless danse macabre that includes a soprano solo and chorus. The music and its setting evoke the spirit of the Dies irae portion of a Requiem Mass. It’s a fitting conclusion to a Symphony imbued with ominous vigor.

I am grateful that the composer’s website (jerrygerber.com) provides the scores for all the music on Cosmic Consciousness. Would that every recording—especially of contemporary music—offered this resource! The liner notes, by the composer, do not offer a description of the included works. Rather, Gerber discusses his philosophy of the function of music; both live and recorded. I enjoyed this disc a great deal. Recommended.

Ken Meltzer

5 Stars: Two compelling works by Jerry Gerber featuring computer generated instruments


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