Since I was a kid, the sensation of being transported always amazed me. In-transit situations put me in a no-place, where I could sit, relax, and enjoy being taken through both familiar and unfamiliar places. When I listened to this album, entitled Tapestry, by Elliot Schwartz, something similar happened: the album carried me on the intertwined tracks of a musical ghost-train.
The CD focuses on Schwartz’s latest chamber works for string instruments with and without piano. True to his style, the four compositions included in the disc propose moments of undecipherable polyrhythms, lyricism, and even theatrical histrionics. In a recent interview, featured violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved quotes the composer, who defines his own musical imagery as “driving down the freeway, fiddling with the car radio, skipping from channel to channel, music to music, voice to voice.”
String Quartet No. 2 is a 21-minute one-way trip. Its departing point is the 12-tone row that Aaron Copland was developing shortly before his death. The row is presented insistently in staggered entrances, building and destroying the listener’s expectations, until a culminating moment where the members of the quartet are asked to recite over sustained drones. The tranquility of the final station arrives only four minutes later. Though a tribute piece, Memorial in Two Parts for violin and piano is anything but mournful. Paying homage to his colleagues with wit, vivacity, and musical irreverence, Schwartz combines quotes of the works that Andrew Wolf and Gábor Brogyányi liked to play, along with his own trace. Snippets of Monteverdi, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, and Gershwin appear in active interaction, knitting a continuous texture of cadences, 12-tone rows, and jazzy syncopations.
Far from Morton Feldman’s approach to rugs and music, Tapestry for piano trio contains shrouded Holocaust references. This piece offers a moment of introspection, a trip for the memory through a broad set of quotations ranging from a Danish children’s folk tune to the work of composer and Holocaust victim Gideon Klein. Water Music, scored for string orchestra and fixed media, is the last piece of the album, its final stop. The flowing quotes from Smetana, Saint-Saëns, Handel, Wagner, Chopin, and Vaughan Williams are the pillars of a work that does not need the help of an unsurprising tape part.
If you like journeys, you should listen to Tapestry. It will transport you through the fine line of what is recognizable and what is not. It will test your musical knowledge. It will take you places.