Reviews for Chamber Music

  String Quartet  (2004)   Description  :::  Ordering information

The final work [of the concert] was [Ronald] Perera's "String Quartet," written in 2004 but not heard in Northampton until this concert. The players—Joel Pitchon, violin; Romina Kostare, violin; Ronald Gorevic, viola, and Volcy Pelletier, cello—did justice to this challenging and satisfying work.

The second of its three movements was a set of "Variations on a Mandolin Tune," written as an homage to Perera's grandfather, who was a concert mandolinist. The movement was played with deep feeling, and was the high point of the concert.

Mark Moroford, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, MA 11/2013

Perera's String Quartet was cast in three movements, ranging in character from an acerbic, angular opening through an unabashed sentimental second movement to a straightforward, sunny C major finale.

A stark, assertive opening fanfare built of tritones, sixths, and sevenths provided much of first movement's impetus and language. The movement unfolded with a disarming mercurial abandon, hopping about in complex meters and teasing the ear with sudden dramatic swerves.

Perera's program note indicated that the second movement, Variations on a Mandolin Tune, was "an homage to my grandfather, Gino L. Perera, an Italian musician and painter whose early career as a classical mandolinist took him to many American cities in the 1890's."

Perera drew this simple, charming G major theme through successive variations of increasing complexity, at first merely decorous and elegant, but gradually clouded by rhythmic and chordal complications until a clever fugue brought round its cheery restatement and gentle final cadence.

The finale was a galloping rondo with little of the rhythmic or harmonic quirkiness that spiced the opening.

Perera put a bird-like main theme through impressive paces. and introduced as an episode a chorale-like tune against arpeggiated chords reminiscent of the Pilgrim's March from Harold in Italy.
The Republican, Springfield, MA 9/2004
  Three Poems of Günter Grass  (1974)   Description   :::  Audio excerpt   :::  Ordering information

Ronald Perera's "Three Poems of Günter Grass" used tape and imaginative ensemble writing to vividly conjure the melancholy anguish of life in postwar Germany.

The Boston Globe , Boston, MA, September, 2008

Ronald Perera's setting of Günter Grass poems, commissioned in1974 and mixing electronic tape with voice (the estimable Pamela Dellal), spoken word and instruments, showed that trendy doesn't have to go out of date if done well.

Boston Herald, Boston, MA, September, 2008

This time around I caught your Grass songs, and, to say something outrageously self-centered, it was one of the few times I regretted that I was not writing. They are a so compelling, sensitive, imaginative extension of the poetry, and one of the things I found especially exciting was your courage, as it were, in making them the point of departure for really big pieces of music.

Letter to the composer 12/15/75 from Michael Steinberg, former Boston Globe music critic, currently Artistic Advisor, San Francisco Symphony

Mr. Perera's musical language is a blend of avant garde vocal and instrumental techniques (sprechstimme, aleatory passages, use of string and wind microtones, prepared piano, etc.) and the semi-popular sound worlds of Kurt Weill and Johann Strauss. The composer combines these elements in a very dramatic setting of three poems which, although symbolic rather than explicit, make powerful statements about the recent political history of Germany.

NATS Bulletin 5/78

The most interesting work on Stock's concert was Perera's song-cycle, a powerful setting of Grass'disturbing poems in which the human voice is accompanied by six instruments and electronic tape.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3/2/81

Shapely lines wound through a leisurely and well-integrated texture for tape and instruments, overlain by a collage of quotations and memories: Strauss waltzes, political songs, the sounds of the Berlin overhead railway.

The Independent (London) 10/20/88

Three Poems of Günter Grass is, quite simply, one of the most haunting works of the last 25 years. Scoring for soprano, chamber ensemble, and electronic tape, composer Ronald Perera sets three poems by the German author depicting different aspects of Germany after the Second World War. The tape is used to provide musique concrete derived from the sounds of Germany—a departing train, a military march, a Nazi rally (the unmistakable voice of Hitler is very evident in the third song)—in effect local color for the eloquent soprano line and imaginative instrumental writing. The first song, Gleisdreieck, was inspired by the train station of the same name on Berlin's elevated railway. Prior to the Berlin Wall it was where one crossed the frontier from west to east. Grass uses it as a metaphor for the rootlessness of postwar German society, and Perera sets it to a variety of train sounds, real and musical. The second song, Folding Chairs (I give the titles in English; the cycle is sung in German), uses the chairs as a metaphor for the impermanence of home caused by the war. Perera sets it to ghostly, distorted reminiscences of Strauss's Kunstlersleben (Artist's Life). The vocal line is itself a ghost of the many arrangements of Strauss waltzes for soprano and orchestra, complete with climactic high note, a phantom of a culture devastated by the Nazis. The final song, Sleepless, is the nightmarish vision of a man with insomnia counting himself to sleep by recounting his life. Eventually he recounts the guilt of his actions during the war, a guilt for which there is no atonement. Words do not convey the power of this 20 minutes or so of music, as wrenching in its way as Schoenberg's harrowing A Survivor from Warsaw. The fine soloist, Elsa Charlston, is beyond praise.

— John Story, Fanfare Magazine, January/February 1999
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  Children of the Sun  (1978)   Description   :::  Score excerpt   :::  Ordering information

Children of the Sun is a cycle of seven songs set to poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson. The pieces are light-hearted and fun, imaginatively set in atonal musical language. Each piece depicts a tiny scene or mood, with titles like Rain, At the Sea Side, and Summer Sun. For example, in The Swing, Perera employs Sprechstimme to express the excitement of a child going up and down on a swing. Tremolos and sweeping glissandos depict the swing's movements. One particularly playful piece is Auntie's Skirts, written in a comic blues style.

Music Library Association, NOTES 3/84

Here are seven poems from that favorite collection for children, A Child's Garden of Verse by Robert Louis Stevenson. Included are The Sun's Travels, Rain, The Swing, At the Sea Side, Auntie's Skirts, Happy Thought, and Summer Sun. The words create a world of serenity and happiness. The music reflects this: some of the words suggesting the mood at the beginning of each song are "exuberantly," "vividly," "impetuously," "very marked," "with serenity." The music is very dissonant, with little sense of tonality, but the melody line carries the text expressively, and all the parts dance along most attractively. The horn some times reinforces the voice or piano, but more often adds a new melody. This is delightful music, about sixteen minutes in length, with a pitch range for the soprano C4 - A5.

NATS Bulletin 3/14/87

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  Crossing the Meridian  (1982)   Description   :::  Audio excerpt   :::  Ordering information

Perera's texts come from Ruth Whitman, Hart Crane, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William Carlos Williams and James Dickey. They differ widely in tone and in method, but all concern themselves with in-between moments in which time is momentarily suspended, and the self is alone. The music, as the composer said in some prefatory remarks, is tonal, triadic, and transparent; like the poems, it concerns itself with limits, and transcending them. There is something cold about it, in an attractive sense — there is no self-indulgent swooning here.

Boston Globe

The first of a sequence of four concerts in St. John's Smith Square contained no less than three British premieres, of which the most striking was Ronald Perera's song-cycle Crossing the Meridian. Its debt to Britten is clear enough, but Perera's music is sensitive to atmosphere and technically most expert and economical.

The Sunday Telegraph (London) 11/9/86

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  Visions  (1992)   Description   :::  Audio excerpt   :::  Ordering information

Visions, . . . scored for soprano duet and large chamber ensemble, shows the lyrical tendencies in the first song of Crossing the Meridian fully in flower. Perera's idiom by 1992 had blossomed fully into tonality, and the music fairly glows with warmth. The three songs all deal with artistic creation, normally a big yawn as a subject for artistic exploration so far as I am concerned, in interestingly oblique ways. The first and last songs, dealing with painting and sculpture respectively, have the voices more or less moving in parallel textures. The second song, The Writer, concerns the poet and her daughter, who is writing her first story. The mother is portrayed by the singers alternating lines, the daughter by the voices together. Interestingly enough, although neither singer has the vocal endowments of Elsa Charlston, the effect when they sing together is to cancel out the flaws in each voice to utterly ravishing effect.

— John Story, Fanfare Magazine, January/February 1999
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  The Writer (from Visions)  (1993)   Description   :::  Ordering information

Perera's setting of The Writer for flute, violin, clarinet, cello and piano, placed last in the set, gave compelling dramatic shape to Wilbur's comparison of his fledgling author daughter with a "dazed starling" finding the open window, and "clearing the sill of the world," the latter text elevating Nixon's powerful soprano to a glorious high B.

Springfield (MA) Union-News 7/25/94
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