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GERBER Symphony No. 10 for the Virtual Orchestra. In Time There Will Be No Time. Three Short Piano Works   OTTAVA 19-014 (48:04)

Earth Music, from Ottava Records, features works by the contemporary American composer Jerry Gerber. In the previous Fanfare, I reviewed Home and Love in a Disordered World, another Ottava release that includes Gerber’s Symphony No. 11 for the Virtual Orchestra, the song Home and Love, Body Politics (for narrator and instruments), and the choral work Hymn to the Divine. In both releases, Gerber employs computer-generated sound files that replicate the sonorities of instruments and the human voice. In my prior review, I wrote that notwithstanding the vast improvement in such technology over the years, “I still believe it is best to listen to recordings of virtual instrument ensembles not as a substitute for traditional orchestras, but as an independent, valid, and quite often valuable method of music performance.” I was gratified to read Gerber’s statement, part of J. Michael Allsen’s liner notes for the new release: “I consider the medium I work in as a relatively new way to make music, not as a substitute for live performance.” The ability to present large-scale works when the requisite number of musicians may not be available has considerable potential.

Gerber’s Symphony No. 10 for the Virtual Orchestra acknowledges symphonic tradition, while embracing modern technology. The work is in four movements. The first (Playtime), embracing thematic development associated with sonata form, weds synthesizer and orchestral sonorities. The second movement (Quicksilver) is a vivacious scherzo, juxtaposed with two slow-tempo episodes. The lyrical slow-tempo movement, True Desire, weaves the replication of human voices into the orchestral fabric. The finale, Passacaglia, is in quick tempo (unlike many of Shostakovich’s explorations of this Baroque structure). As with the Symphony No. 11 included on Home and Love in a Disordered World, Gerber’s Symphony No. 10 features highly accessible, melodic writing that is richly and transparently scored. Much of the Symphony has a powerful sweeping grandeur reminiscent of accomplished film scores, and all for the good. The Symphony No. 10 lasts approximately 32 minutes. Briefer works serve to conclude Earth Music. First is In Time There Will Be No Time, scored for a virtual ensemble of two string choirs and a string quartet. Both in terms of instrumentation and atmosphere, the seven-minute work evokes the spirit of Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. While I am not suggesting Gerber’s piece imparts a parallel to the timeless hypnotic majesty of Vaughan Williams’s masterpiece, Gerber’s work is quite satisfying on its own terms. Three Short Piano Works comprise Invention in Three Parts, Ballad, and e-Toccata. By employing computer technology, Gerber is able to create keyboard pieces beyond the performing capability of a single pianist. As he puts it: “four hands would be required (or one player with 12 fingers and a very large reach).” While the works are complex, they are not overly dense in texture. The spirit of Bach is evident throughout, as are hints of other popular and classical influences, both past and present. All told, this is accomplished and highly satisfying music. I’m happy once again to recommend the works of Jerry Gerber for your consideration.

Ken Meltzer

4 Stars: Another satisfying exploration of computer-generated music by Jerry Gerber


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