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Roger Sessions Chamber Music


String Quintet ~
Six pieces for cello ~
Canons (in memory of Stravinsky) ~
Quartet No 1

The Group for Contemporaty Music


Naxos American Classics 8.559261 [66 mins]


Roger Sessions (1896-1985) has been reckoned a 'difficult' composer and despite his fame in USA his music is little heard in UK.This re-released CD (Koch 1993) is a good one to start with.

He is noted for his "long line" within a complex texture. In the first quartet, neoclassical & tonal (1937), he found himself "writing like Alban Berg already". Influenced by Beethoven 132 in its formal structure, it is an expansive work of over half an hour. Its lively, contrapuntal finale is, in Sessions' words and mine, "a lot of fun". It deserved (and deserves) to remain in the regular repertoire, and is no longer daunting to hear.


Nor is the avowedly 12-tone string quintet hard to enjoy, lyrical and an obvious candidate to be given together with the regular Mozart quintets.It is relevant to note that Dallapiccola's influence is recorded alongside Schonberg's. The Quintet, which we found very beautiful, was first heard, when still incomplete, by the Griller Quartet in Berkeley; I don't know if they continued to champion it back in UK?


The cello suite is refreshingly transparent and the brief Canons were a typically austere contribution by Stravinsky to Tempo's memorial tribute to Sessions.


© Peter Grahame Woolf