PERLE Serenades

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project are quietly building a most impressive library of contemporary American composition. For their latest release, though, they have turned to the long-lived George Perle (1915-2009), whose three Serenades were written between 1962 and 1983. Perle was one of America’s ablest composers technically, an exponent of tonal 12-note music and an expert on the music of Berg.

While Berg was a crucial influence for Perle, his music does not really sound like the Austrian at all. The First Serenade (1962) is a case in point: for all its use of 12-note rows, Hindemith comes to mind rather in the angular viola-writing (it was composed for Walter Trampler, a noted Hindemith interpreter), superbly rendered here by Wenting Kang. Indeed, all three serenades bear more than a hint of Hindemith’s Kammermusiken about them, scored for 11 players (mostly winds), including the soloists, though the Second (1968) is an ensemble piece. All three also run to five movements, generally delightful, light-hearted sequences of allegros, recitativos, scherzos and burlescos with the occasional elegy. No 3 for piano (1983) is the finest, a real mini-concerto; Donald Berman is as persuasive as Richard Goode (Bridge and Nonesuch), though BMOP’s sound is comparatively rather closer-miked.

At 54 minutes, this release is reasonable in duration; however, I cannot help feeling an opportunity has been lost to present Perle’s complete works for larger chamber ensembles – as the composer’s website categorises them – by omitting the 16-minute Intermezzo for 15 players (1987). It would have made a good encore and, more importantly, filled a gap. (However, the alternate version for piano solo is available from Bridge and New World.) That said, this splendid, well-performed disc is indispensable for devotees of late 20th-century American music (and should appeal more widely), with beautifully clear sound.

BMPO1067. PERLE Serenades
PERLE Serenades
Serenade No 1 for Viola & Chamber Orchestra

Serenade No 2 for Eleven Players

Serenade No 3 for Piano and Chamber Orchestra


Guy Rickards, Gramophone
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