PROGRAM NOTES [excerpts]
by Miranda Cuckson

Hersch's music forms a unique world; one highly recognizable as his own and difficult to associate closely with stylistic movements. He uses spare materials to grippingly visceral effect, packing the utmost expression into very simple bits of material. It can at times be almost unbearably intense. Using isolated clusters or chords, he masterfully employs the power of a single attack, or of a precisely shaped crescendo on a single note, to express his aims. Loud and turbulent passages requiring great accuracy combined with wildly unleashed energy and speed adjoin extensive sections or brief moments of restraint and simplicity, where bow control of every inflection becomes paramount. The sudden switches from furious virtuosity to still, delicate playing, along with often abnormally large stretches and leaps, test the performer's skill and stamina. These instrumental issues are very particular to Hersch's music, and they serve its basic expressive paradox, for the listener is simultaneously impacted by its huge dimensions and powerful gestures, and drawn in by its acute focus on subtle detail and nuance.

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"In his typically uncompromising manner, composer Michael Hersch collects his violin chamber works - all of which emotionally go for broke but in different ways - onto a single disc, no matter how heavy-going it might initially seem. All three works - Fourteen Piecesthe wreckage of flowers, and Five Fragments - come from a period (2003-2007) when Hersch was writing intense but tiny micromovements. Fourteen Pieces, for example, has 14 movements in 31 minutes. ... Hersch supplies accompanying poetic fragments by Primo Levi and Czeslaw Milosz that give the ear a needed compass in his wintry journeys. ... the performances are completely up to the often-explosive demands of the music ..." – The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Both the 14 Pieces and The Wreckage of Flowers take the inspiration for their brief, aphoristic movements from fragments of poetry; of Primo Levi in the one case, and Czeslaw Milosz in the other. Both sets of texts share a sense of desolation, and both contain powerful imagery of nature ... Abrupt gestures - some quite tonal, others decidedly not - decay into silent voids; lamenting melodies alternate with violent chordal playing; virtuoso filigree gives way to sombre meditativeness. The result is a highly expressive, quasi-programmatic series of images. The generally more somber Milosz pieces are similarly evocative, with eerie shadings of violin tone, while the piano part interacts with the violin in brusque clusters or in dialogue that can be complementary or confrontational, according to the poetic context. The little Fragments have no accompanying text, but heard in the context of the other works with their evocative vividness, they seem to imply imagery and narrative of their own." – Records International