SCHURMANN Chamber Music Vol 3
Toccata Classics renews its coverage of Gerard Schurmann, Javanese-born British composer resident in the US. Early established for his film scores, Schurmann only latterly focused on chamber music and his two piano quartets are notable additions to this overlooked genre.
Starkly contrasted too – the First Piano Quartet (1986) emphasising charged emotions such that the simmering unease of ‘Ricercare’ intensifies into the headlong energy of ‘Capriccio’, before ‘Corale’ affords a measure of calm yet hardly passive resolution. If the Second Piano Quartet (1998) is outwardly a more equable work, shades of expressive ambiguity are rarely beneath the surface of the initial Allegro; its successor deftly combining scherzo and Adagio in the way speculative gestures expand into relatively long-breathed melodic lines, though the final Allegro seems a little too short-winded to make for a wholly satisfying conclusion.
British composers have added considerably to the corpus of music for solo violin – witness Benjamin Frankel’s sonatas and Roberto Gerhard’s Chaconne; Schurmann’s Serenade (1969) stands among these. Its nine short movements can be heard as two animated groups which the Pastorale (4) then the Tranquillo (8) counter with increasing repose, before the piece turns full-circle by recalling earlier material in the final Pesante. Two Violins (2015) comprises six vignettes, their close-knit imitative writing leavened by droll character-types that commence with the resolve of ‘Parading’ then conclude with the impetus of ‘Chasing’.
As with earlier discs in this series, the performances are as attentive to this music’s exacting technical demands as to its expressive subtleties. With excellent sound and detailed booklet notes, this is a worthwhile addition to the discography of a composer now in his 94th year.