- Piano Trio No. 4 "Angel Band"
- Piano Trio No. 3 "Wayfaring Stranger"
Composer Daron Hagen, a student of Ned Rorem, is eclectic in the current American fashion but manages to attach his various stylistic influences to a rigorously conceived core based on some manipulation of a small set of pitches. He is best known for vocal works, but these chamber pieces showcase his style attractively. Hagen is unusual in that he can mix music infused with American vernacular elements -- here, the folk hymns "Wayfaring Stranger" and "Angel Band," " but also classic blues and even bluegrass music -- with extended-tonal idioms that have nothing to do with folk and popular music. Even the most folkish piece of all, the "Piano Trio No. 3, Wayfaring Stranger," which includes two different sets of variations on the hymn, also includes an angular mazurka, a fandango, and an aubade as an introduction to the finale. The highly expressive feel holds it all together. The compact "Piano Trio No. 1, Trio Concertante," of 1984 has no vernacular elements at all; nor does the "Piano Trio No. 2, J'entends," based on Nadia Boulanger's supposed final words, "J'entends une musique sans commencement et sans fin." This is perhaps the least persuasive piece, presented by Hagen with the argument that he is "attempting to manipulate time the way a visual artist manipulates space," a statement too general to mean much. The final "Piano Trio No. 4, Angel Band," however, is gorgeous, and its programmatic use of the hymn material to depict stages in the life of the work's dedicatee, Kentucky-born violinist Joyce Ritchie Strosahl, is clearly audible. The Finisterra Trio, of international origins and based in Washington state, does well with Hagen's lush idiom. Recommended as an example of academic composition that manages a broader appeal.
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Daron Hagen: Complete Piano Trios based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
The four piano trios on this release come from two distinct phases of Daron Hagen's career. The first two, written in 1984 and 1986 respectively, are works by a young composer just finding his way. The first trio, the "Trio Concertante" was written while Hagen was studying with David Diamond, and reflects the older composer's style (at least to my ears). "J'etands," Hagen's second trio, was inspired by Nadia Boulanger's final words. Like the first, it leans more towards atonality, but in the longer melodic lines you can hear Hagen's individuality beginning to emerge. He has the instruments toss ideas and motifs back and forth in a masterful fashion that always keeps the music moving forward. Fast forward fifteen years to the creation of the third and fourth piano trios. Both of these works are based on American folk melodies. By this time Hagen's fully developed as a composer, and uses these tunes in a way that shows he's comfortable with his abilities and doesn't need to prove a thing to anyone. He embraces a more tonal style for these last two trios, without sacrificing originality. In Piano Trio No. 3, "Wayfaring Stranger," the tune forms basis of second movement played more or less straight. In the other movements, different aspects of the melody chopped up and rearranged. The tune makes a reappearance at the end of the fourth movement (Aubade and Variations), tying the entire composition together. The final trio, "Angel Band" uses the Appalachian gospel song as a starting point. As with the third trio, the tune is reduced to it's primary musical elements, which are then used to create new sonic structures. While the listener never gets a straight-forward statement of the original melody (save at the conclusion of the work), it clearly drives the structure and direction of the piece. If you're looking for something a little more substantial than Americana tricked out in classical garb, I can highly recommend this disc. All four trios are solidly constructed, and have enough depth to reward repeated listening.