“Russell Platt’s new Concerto for Bassoon and Strings is a lock to become a standard work for bassoonists aspiring to more than sideman status in classical music.”
Now That We've Come to the End
From Noon to Starry Night: A Walt Whitman Cantata
"The songs truly evoke a cantata by setting Whitman’s words for long stretches with close-knit, pungent block harmonies for three singers."
Two Whitman Panels
"Two Whitman Panels” (2006), drawn from Russell Platt’s cantata “From Noon to Starry Night” (2006), treats Whitman’s poetry with a straightforward, occasionally folksy lyricism, and Jesse Blumberg, a baritone, gave the songs a shapely reading. But the music’s real charm is in its inventive, richly detailed piano writing, which Steven Beck put forth with suppleness and agility.
Trio for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano
The Verdehr Trio made one of its regular semiyearly visits to the Phillips Collection on Sunday bringing with it two of the almost 200 pieces for violin, clarinet and piano it's commissioned over the years, one, a world's premiere, and both, attractive, coherent and entertaining.
The premiere was of Russell Platt's "Trio for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano," a three-movement set of fantasies with a first movement "Outdoor Overture" full of contrasting musical ideas, a lyrical second-movement "Song Without Words" and a playful finale that explores a colorful palette of textures and spacing. This is music with an accessible architectural road map that leads light-handedly through a rich emotional journey.
Concerto for Bassoon and Strings
Russell Platt's new Concerto for Bassoon and Strings is a lock to become a standard work for bassoonists aspiring to more than sideman status in classical music.
Peter Kolkay, a brilliant young exponent of the instrument, played the piece with the Waukesha Symphony on Sunday afternoon. Platt's idiomatic writing made the instrument sound good, and Kolkay's warm, commanding playing made Platt's striking melodies sound wonderful.
In his program notes, Platt cited the influence of Schoenberg and Copland, among others, on his 1997 Bassoon Quintet, which the composer transformed into the concerto this year. But my ear detected far more Debussy and Stravinsky in the mix, with maybe a little Bartok in the finale. The first movement is dreamy and deliciously overripe, rather like "Afternoon of Faun." A hint of jazz harmony, as understood by European ears early in the last century, spiced up the middle section.
This concerto, as familiar as it might sound at first hearing, is no mere echo of music past. Platt's own ideas about the interaction of form and harmony are intriguing, and his ways of knotting up and - presto! - untying chords are clever and satisfying. The first movement, for example, turns on open, watery, Impressionist harmonies that collapse ever so gradually into dissonant clusters. He builds his large-scale climax on this original but easily grasped idea. Platt reverses and compresses this trick in the second movement, in which clusters expand and resolve in pairs of chords beneath a singing, meandering melody. Ostinatos built on repeating, crunchy little dissonances drive a cheerful, dancing finale.
Nepotism is not always a bad thing. Alexander Platt, Russell's twin brother and music director of the WSO, conducted with great zeal and understanding.
Sheer sonic beauty has always been the salient feature of Frank Almond's violin playing. It was in full bloom Wednesday, amid a roster of American composers who hold sonic beauty in high esteem. Almond and Brian Zeger, whose touch drew nothing but luscious and subtle sound from the piano, played music by Peter Lieberson, Ned Rorem, Russell Platt and Philip Lasser on a Frankly Music program at the intimate recital hall of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.
Russell Platt's [piece] jumbles styles - sometimes it sounds like Fritz Kreisler, sometimes like Bartók, sometimes like cocktail jazz and sometimes like I don't know what. But each of its elements has its charm, especially when bathed in the empathy and buttery sound of these two performers. Platt made a fascinating argument in at least one stretch of music, as a water-torture piano plink-plink morphed ever so gradually and miraculously into a gorgeous melody.
Sonata for Violin and Piano
I appreciate compositional craft when I hear it, and Russell Platt's Sonata for Violin and Piano had much in the way of melodic charm and formal invention to engage the audience of about 150 at Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall. Platt's sonata, composed over a three-year period, stylistically is all over the map, with passages that evoke (but do not quote) Prokofiev, Gershwin, Brahms and the chord progressions of jazz pianists such as Horace Silver or Thelonious Monk. Platt has discovered a way to blend these very different styles together so that the listener is carried along in a sort of thrilling auditory bumper car ride, never progressing in a straight line, but zigzagging this way and that, lurching forward, backward and sideways. There were audible gasps of delight from the audience as the music alighted now and then on a sumptuous chord, ending a section or phrase, or when, in the third movement, "Lamentoso (Chaconne)," Platt channeled Bach by way of Brahms with a melody that could have been written by Rachmaninoff.
This is musical postmodernism. All styles are grist for the mill in any manner of assemblage that works, creating a sort of uberstyle. Russian composer Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) used a similar approach, dubbed "polystylism." And of course Ives and Bernstein were amalgamators as well...Yet, I didn't feel Platt's Sonata was simply a gloss on older music embedded within a mildly dissonant texture to make it palatable; his music has substance and an individual voice, and this is where craft meets imagination....(the) work received an authoritative performance by violinist Joanna Kurkowicz and pianist Doris Stevenson.
Sonata for Violin and Piano
We already know Russell Platt as a writer (for The New Yorker and The Observer, among other places)....We were also aware that he is a composer. I suspected I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed when the concert we finally heard Saturday night was postponed last summer, due to the imminent delivery of the violinist’s [Livia Sohn] first child. However, those of us who were there were rewarded with Platt’s Violin Sonata, a piece neither conservative nor aggressively modern, simultaneously adventurous and compelling. Platt uses a style, similar to that of Bartók’s Violin Sonatas, writing in different styles for the two instruments according to their nature. The first movement was intense, dramatic, and rhythmically involving. The slow second movement had an interesting style of contemporary lyricism; the third became suddenly tonal, then veered away in a very dramatic and exciting manner.
It will take more hearings for me to become familiar with the structure of Platt’s work, but its emotional content made itself felt immediately and drew me completely into the spirit of the music, where I gladly remained throughout its nearly half-hour length. I truly look forward to hearing more of Platt’s music, and I would be glad to hear this piece again.