Over his many decades, Charles Wuorinen has built a substantial body of good work. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he's ignored the P.R. aspect of contemporary music-making. Instead, he has quietly focused on simply writing music. This collection is a good example of what he accomplished in the middle part of his career.
The Violin Sonata that opens the CD has immediate curb appeal. While Wuorinen has never cheapened his musical language, he's written a widely-accessible piece here. It's a bravura sonata with a flow that immediately recalls antecessors like Bartok and Schubert. The intent of the piece is clear, and it finishes with a surprisingly tender coda. This is a great piece to get to know Wuorinen. The other bookend of the CD is 'Fast Fantasy' for cello and piano. While not as immediate as the Violin Sonata, it will still bowl over the first-time listener with its breakneck virtuosity. After all, the first listening is simply an invitation for another go. That invitation will be accepted.
The centerpiece is the 'Third String Quartet'. It opens with an active and complex texture which is soon penetrated by some striking static sonorities. Those soon take over the texture and then yield to more change. These chords appear throughout the piece in varying guises, finally attempting to wrap up a piece that never quite allows it. It's a restless, uneasy piece that demands more of the listener. What a journey.
Charles Wuorinen is part of an active group of chamber musicians, both as composer and player. It's a situation any composer would envy. He really knows chamber music from the inside. It shows in this rewarding trio of pieces.