CHESKY: Psalm IV "Sorrow." Psalm V
"Aftermath." Psalm VI "Rage and Despair."
In this regard, David Chesky does a remarkable number of things right. His piece of the horror finds expression in the traditional psalms. Tradition allows us to deal with or get through the unthinkable. The three psalms he chooses begin:
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me and hear my prayer. O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame?
This suggests an obvious program, or at least philosophic themes. Chesky in his liner notes gives a reasonably full description, and he's on the side of the angels. But good intentions aren't good enough to make good art. Since Chesky doesn't write Lisztian program music, the program really is important mainly to Chesky as a stimulus to composition. We should be able to take that program away and judge the work by the music itself.
Chesky uses a classic modern/postromantic idiom. He knows his craft. It's obviously music deeply felt. But it's not particularly memorable, fatal for a work written in remembrance. Excepting certain passages in the last movement, nothing really grabbed me or made me listen, and a work lasting over an hour shouldn't allow the mind to wander. There's something "not fully formed" about the idiom, as if Chesky hasn't yet really found his true musical self. I sense a lack of assurance that someone much less ambitious, like Grieg or Grainger, has. I believe Chesky indeed has something to find, and I'd like to hear his work a few years out.
The performances are good, even if little more than a read-through. It's ironic that, what with recording fee structures, Eastern European orchestras probably do more new American music than most American ones. The sound is acceptable.
S.G.S. (Aug. 2001)