ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
GORDON SHERWOOD - SYMPHONY NO. 1


GORDON SHERWOOD - SYMPHONY NO. 1, OP. 3 - PIANO CONCERTO OP. 107 - MASHA DIMITRIEVA (Piano) - WERNER ANDREAS ALBERT (Conductor) - BAVARIAN YOUTH ORCHESTRA - CPO 777012

This fascinating American composer was born in Illinois in 1929. He started studying music at the age of 18, and at the age of 26, after winning his first composition prizes, the New York Philharmonic under Dimitri Mitropoulos premiered his 1st symphony. He went on to study under Copland and won quite a few fellowships that enabled him to extend his studies in Hamburg and Rome until 1967. But then his life changed and he started travelling extensively around the world and took odd jobs as a piano player in movie theaters or writing film music in Cairo. After residing in Kenya, Nepal, India...all the while composing and learning new languages, he returned to New York, this time a homeless person who had nowhere else to go.

With the help of George Crumb and a small inheritance, he managed to survive, but then the travels started again through Canada, South America, Japan, Moscow, Budapest and ended in Paris where he became a beggar and earned his living that way for 10 years. Then his old life caught up with him. A friend from his Hamburg days, who had become a journalist, found him and filmed a television documentary about him titled "The Beggar of Paris". Masha Dimitrieva, the pianist on this recording, saw the film and managed to contact Gordon Sherwood because she was one of the few who recognized Sherwood's talents at a time when he was well over 60 years old. The Piano Concerto was the result of this encounter. After all this time, this cd is Sherwood's recording debut, and he only had to wait until he was 74 years old to see it happen.

Sherwood claims that his influences are Stravinsky, Bartok, American tradition, blues and oriental music. I myself hear the influence of Rautavaara, more so in the Piano Concerto. Both the symphony and concerto, although written years and worlds apart, are very strong works. Well laid out, tonal, using all the tools of 20th century western Europe with a dash of Americana. Movements often starting in dark, menacing fashion and leading to well attained, muscular and decisive climaxes, well balanced by lyrical slow movements. The Piano Concerto in particular has a very distinctive sound, where the piano is part of the overall texture as opposed to being the solo star attraction.

CPO should be applauded for recording and releasing the music of this neglected composer. If you like making new discoveries, then you should obtain this substantial offering.

I still remember very well the feeling that my first encounter with music caused in me: goose bumps. For me, music was always an elixir for my spirit. But music is one thing, and the other thing is language, and there are really no words that might describe the effect that music has on me

Gordon Sherwood - 2003


Jean-Yves Duperron