Author Topic: Shifrin's Schmear  (Read 1141 times)

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Shifrin's Schmear
« on: August 18, 2016, 10:37:59 AM »
Seymour Shifrin (1926-1979)

Seymour Schonberg/Arnold Shifnikke... it doesn't matter. Shifrin is one of a hundred jewish Composers flourishing in the USA after WWII, and one might wonder what sets him apart. I had initially met Shifrin through his early, and somewhat rugged, Cello Sonata of 1949. It comes courtesy of a recital by the Hampton/Schwatrz Duo (Music&Arts;w/Hindemith, Milhaud, et al), lifelong colleagues of the Composer. I wouldn't want to compare it to Schoenberg's violin and piano 'Phantasy', as it has a more late 1920s-to-mid 1930s profile (Hindemith+Schoenberg?). It tries, and has some nice touches in the slow movement, but I didn't find it all that individual; regardless, it wasn't offensively emotive, as can be the case with a lot of Abstrakt Expresszion.

Next up was the culmination of his early phase, the Serenade for Five Instruments (1954;CRI). Though an early recording, it's quite good, revealing a music that has much improved since his graduation. Here I feel more at home with the Schoenberg of the 'Serenade' and 'Suite'.  Scored for oboe, clarinet, French horn, viola, and piano,it abounds with darting lines and mercurial twists. On the same album are the Three Pieces for Orchestra (1958), which, as their title implies, is Shifrin's maturity coming home to roost. I will now always want to hear these whenever I put on those DG sets of the 2nd Viennese School.

I have struggled with the String Quartet No.4 (1966;CRI- Fine Arts Quartet). I highly value the Fine Arts, so I can't tell if this recording is what's giving this music an undue edge, or if Shifrin meant for his work to be so... uncompromising. Again, the Schoenberg of SQs 3-4 is what's on display here. There are interesting passages, mostly in the middle movement, but the harshness of the tuttis in this recording (CD says 1961: that must be a typo since the work is later) undermine its listening pleasure. It's very hard for me to recommend this piece.

The last work of Shifrin's I have is the Piano Trio of 1974 (Music&Arts), again with Schwartz and Hampton. Shifrin died in 1979, and his Last Works are very consciously"LAST WORKS"!!, so, we see a concentration of materials. I thought this PT was quite good, nice and short (12mins.) and packed with gesture, and bouncing pattern- I sense Wolpe?

There is not much to choose from beyond what I've outlined above. If you're looking for some "Last Gasp of German Abstrakt Expressionism", maybe give Shifrin a shot.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2016, 04:28:00 PM by snyprrr »