Vincent Persichetti was one of the most significant American composers of the 20th century, but the intervening years have not been kind to him. During his life he was overshadowed by others, principally Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber. And well before his death in 1987 at the age of 72 Persichetti was forgotten and his works neglected.
Two University of Utah faculty members, however, have recently done their part in reviving Persichetti’s name and reputation. Violinist Hasse Borup and pianist Heather Conner have just released a CD on the Naxos label that features Persichetti’s works for violin and piano, all of which are premiere recordings. And he was while researching Persichetti’s works at the New York Public Library for this recording, Borup uncovered a work, the Sonata for Violin and Piano, op. 15, that had been lost for over 70 years. This piece is the first work on the disc.
The sonatas and other works that Borup and Conner have chosen span a large chunk of Persichetti’s creative life, from the 1940s to the ‘60s. The works are a wonderful document of his development as a composer. Surprisingly, the early pieces already exhibit a sophistication of style and harmonic language that he honed and refined throughout his creative life. All of the works are well constructed and show Persichetti’s mastery of form, harmony and melody.
Borup and Conner give stellar performances of the 10 works on this CD. Their playing is wonderfully phrased, crafted and delineated. They pay close attention to details of expression without turning these performances into something academic. Instead, the sonatas and other pieces on the disc are vibrant and exciting and come vividly to life.
Of particular note is the Sonata for Solo Violin, op. 10, which Borup plays with cleanly defined articulation and fine craftsmanship. Also notable is the manner in which Conner plays the six sonatinas for piano. She brings a wonderfully keen sense of expression and lyricism to her readings that give the pieces depth and definition.
Another delight are the Masques, op. 99, from 1965. These brief pieces show a somewhat different side to Persichetti’s musical language as he explores stylistic elements from several other 20th century composers, but within his own distinct compositional framework.
And while the music in and of itself has a lot to offer, this album is particularly noteworthy for the exceptional artistry of the two players. Their technique and musicality are striking.