Kuuskmann performs Chesky’s concerto on CD
By Richard Clark
Martin Kuuskmann’s website recently drew my attention to David Chesky, a 52-year-old composer and jazz artist who, born in Miami, moved to New York where he launched his musical career. Thanks to Amazon, I’ve received a CD of Chesky’s three “Urban Concertos” performed by the Symphony Orchestra of the Norrlands Opera. Rossen Gergov conducts the 58-member Swedish orchestra, founded in 1974.
Chesky’s CD lasts nearly one and one-half hours. It opens with a “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra” with pianist Love Derwinger rendering a strong performance. Next comes his “Concerto for Orchestra” with music reflective of Bartok, whose famous concerto of the same name was written while he lay dying. Finally, we hear his “Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra” performed by bassoonist Kuuskmann. Chesky, who composed the concerto for Kuuskmann, saw it nominated “best classical contemporary composition” for the 2007 Grammy awards. It was the first work written for bassoon ever to receive such an honor in the Grammy’s 50-year history.
“We are a nation of rhythms and our orchestral music should reflect this,” says Chesky. “I like to transform the orchestra into a great big rhythm machine.” Indeed, rhythmic reflection is obvious, particularly by means of the orchestra’s six-member percussion section. His rhythms, drawn from a blending of classical and jazz traditions, are innovative and interesting. Occasionally, they sparkle with flamenco handclapping.
“I use all the sounds I hear emanating from the streets of New York,” says Chesky, later adding, “This is urban music; it reflects the sounds of my city.”
He is sometimes called an “orchestral urban composer.” His music is urban, but not urbane. The streets of New York are not polite or polished. Nor, by the same token, may we say Chesky’s compositions are sweet and pretty. But, just as certainly as we may say much of New York is interesting, the same may be said of Chesky’s music. Indeed, I find his music most interesting, and that is why I am drawn to it.
Every hour is rush hour in New York City. Chesky’s “Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra” rapidly moves the listener from one scene to the next, like a taxicab racing down a New York main street. “I live in a city that never sleeps,” says Chesky. “It is a hard-driving concrete jungle that pulsates around the clock.” It is an exercise in musical athleticism; a test of human endurance.
The bassoonist cannot be a weakling and survive the challenges presented by this work. Kuuskmann, always in control, meets every challenge and aces each test as if it were easy. It’s no wonder The New York Times describes his work as dynamic, amazing, and gripping.
Chesky’s music is full of urbanized excitement, but not without an ongoing sense of humor. Every New Yorker needs it as a condition of survival. Moreover, the second movement actually offers a moment of relaxation. It’s melodic lines give the bassoon an opportunity to sing, as surely it does in Kuuskmann’s hands. It’s like a walk in the city park.
Stravinsky’s ghost occasionally drops in on the bassoon concerto, and I am among those who welcome his appearances. Other composers living or – more than likely – dead, influence every successful composer. This is how good music is perpetuated.
Fifty years passed before Charles Ives became a widely recognized composer. I don’t think it will take that long for David Chesky. With Martin Kuuskmann’s supportive performances, I believe the limelight will illuminate Chesky’s music sooner than ever. Now that I’ve listened to the CD, both artists have caught my interest. And now they’ve gained my support.
Upon reading the comments of several reviewers, I agree with frequent references to this CD’s excellent quality of sound.
It is only one of several CDs featuring Kuuskmann’s artistry.
While I am grateful to receive mine through Amazon, I would consider it appropriate and desirable if all such CDs could be purchased here in Blaine.