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Robert Baksa: Journeys - Chamber Music for Flute, Viola and Guitar

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 26, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Robert Baksa is a composer of distinct personality. His music's broad, passionate intensity shimmers with transparent textures and melodies that exploit the full beauty of an instrument's sounds. One wants to hear it over and over. Baksa rejects experimentation, cliché and gimmickry. Critics have described his work as resolutely and stubbornly tonal, embarrassingly attractive, and unconventionally conventional. They acknowledge that he is a superb melodist, and that his works possess impressive contrapuntal effectiveness. Baksa honors traditional musical approaches, yet the music overflows those forms and vocabularies. His undeniably modern music is rewarding to perform and elicits enthusiastic audience response. The chamber works presented here are chamber music concertante in the very best sense. The guitar is prominent, participating fully in the important thematic material in substantive and sophisticated ways. The music requires the same dexterity and expressive palette from the guitar that it does from the flute and viola.

The HEIM DUO has been featured on the internationally syndicated program Classical Guitar Alive. Pan Magazine of the British Flute Society called their performance of Robert Baksas Celestials a dazzling performance of a dazzling work! The Duo was invited to perform at the 2004 National Flute Association Convention in San Diego, California, and presented a series of concerts of American and British works for flute and guitar in London and the surrounding area in summer of 2006. Annette Heim holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied with Robert Cole. She also studied with Thomas Perazzoli and Max Schoenfeld, and has performed in master classes with Paula Robison and Eugenia Zukerman. Annette is currently a flutist with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra in Alabama. Bret Heim holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Arizona where he studied with Thomas Patterson. He has performed in master classes with Eliot Fisk, Pepe Romero, David Leisner and David Tanenbaum. Mr. Heim has performed concertos of Rodrigo, Brouwer, Villa-Lobos, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Giuliani with orchestras across the United States, and is currently an Associate Professor at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama.

CHRISTINE BOCK enjoys a reputation as one of the Midwest s most sought-after violists. She has appeared as soloist with the Illinois Chamber Orchestra, Illinois Symphony, and South Bend Symphony, and has performed at New York's Alice Tully Hall and Carnegie Hall. Ms. Bock is current principal violist of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and the Illinois Chamber Orchestra. Also active as a pedagogue, she was an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Millikin University for 18 years, has been on the faculty at Knox College and Andrews University. As a member of the South Bend Symphony String Quintet, she performed in numerous concerts for young audiences. Ms. Bock holds a Master of Music degree in performance from Northwestern University and is currently completing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Illinois where she studies with Rudolf Haken.

ROBERT BAKSA was born in New York City to Hungarian parents but grew up and was educated in the Southwest, graduating with a BA in Composition from the University of Arizona. Mr. Baksa has composed nearly 600 works in a variety of forms, including two operas, numerous art songs, choral music, keyboard works and much chamber music. His sonatas for woodwind instruments have been particularly widely performed and his choral works have long been a part of the repertory. Baksa s one-act opera Red Carnations has been performed as an introduction to opera by the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Santa Fe Opera, Dallas Opera and St Luke's.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Baksa: Sonata for Flute and Guitar, Brightly
  2. Baksa: Sonata for Flute and Guitar, Very smoothly
  3. Baksa: Sonata for Flute and Guitar, Lively
  4. Baksa: Sonata da Camera for Solo Guitar, Strongly rhythmic
  5. Baksa: Sonata da Camera for Solo Guitar, Dreamily, but not too slow, rather freely
  6. Baksa: Sonata da Camera for Solo Guitar, With great rhythmic vitality
  7. Baksa: Journeys for Flute, Viola and Guitar, Striving
  8. Baksa: Journeys for Flute, Viola and Guitar, Arriving
  9. Baksa: Sonata da Giardino for Solo Guitar, Rather fast
  10. Baksa: Sonata da Giardino for Solo Guitar, Gently rocking, not too strict
  11. Baksa: Sonata da Giardino for Solo Guitar, Lively
  12. Baksa: Celestial for Flute and Guitar, Moon Drifts
  13. Baksa: Celestial for Flute and Guitar, Sun Tones
  14. Baksa: Celestial for Flute and Guitar, Rain Shapes
  15. Baksa: Celestial for Flute and Guitar, Star Drops
  16. Baksa: Celestial for Flute and Guitar, Wind Hues


Product Details

  • Conductor: None
  • Composer: Robert Baksa
  • Audio CD (October 26, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: MSR Classics
  • ASIN: B002UFWYFC
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #403,367 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By S. Lachterman on November 12, 2009
Robert Baksa's serotonin-rich music is, by its complete ingenuousness, a refreshing alternative to the stuck groove of much contemporary classical music. Yes, a "stuck groove" is a puzzling and dated reference to the post-LP world, as is Baksa's unabashed avoidance of most post-modern tonalist fixations. While many have embraced the gospel of minimalism, Baksa leans to a formalism born of baroque and classical sensibilities. His working out of motifs, and contrapuntal mastery, reveal a keen fluency in eighteen-century forms while never abandoning a lean, neo-classical, twentieth-century harmonic vocabulary. What he rejects is rhythmic discontinuity as well as any melodic deconstruction or fragmentation. So, a melodic line, classically shaped, rules, and the formal development of such, ages old, becomes the unfolding. Take, for example, the "Sonata for Flute and Guitar (2004)," and listen to the final movement ("Lively"). It wittily takes on a dual identity of a baroque gigue movement (replete with an appearance of an inverted subject) and a short sonata-allegro form. Yet it is ineffably "modern" while sounding perfectly convincing and lyric.

The guitar and flute performers, Bret and Annette Heim, have musicianship and technique to burn, and lend sincerity and warmth to these scores. Christine Bock, violist, who joins the others in "Journeys (2005)," has a rich, rhapsodic sound, allowing this recent composition to steep a bit in the sound-world of Debussy's Harp-Flute-Viola sonata. The music also allows Mr. Heim the leeway of sounding both like John Williams and Ralph Towner.

It is a symptom of our dyspeptic times that some might be discomfited by the congeniality of these works.
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When I first heard this wonderful recording, my plan was to put it in the player and listen while I tended to a few chores in the immediate area. I was midway into the third track of the CD when I realized that from the moment I'd pressed 'play' I'd been completely pulled into the music without really making the choice to lend myself to it; simply put, it was the musical version of 'love at first sight'. Robert Baksa's music is immediately compelling, exciting, fresh, and interesting to hear. It is indeed modern music, but the uninitiated should have no fear as the writing is unceasingly accessible and stirs in the listener a wide range of imagery, color, and emotion. The title of the recording is truly apt; I found that for as much as I was enjoying each moment, I also had an 'edge-of-your-seat' kind of feeling that comes with the anticipation of knowing that what's around each new bend will be something as fresh and interesting as what you've left behind. Of course this feeling could never be achieved without the interpretation and performance of the Heim Duo. Both Bret and Annette Heim are masterful players on their respective instruments, and when put together the resultant whole is perhaps greater than the sum of its parts. The music absolutely comes to life in their hands--it ebbs, flows, lives and breathes in a way that is charming, intimate, and quite special. Christine Bock makes a perfect addition to this equation on the two-movement 'Journeys'. It leaves one wanting to hear more music with this configuration of instruments! As a guitar enthusiast, I was very happy to hear Baksa's writing for the instrument. The duo and trio writing is so well balanced, and the guitar is never relegated to the position of 'simple accompanist'.Read more ›
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As a person who is passionate about music, few things are as rewarding as the discovery of new music of instantly endearing quality by new or lesser known composers. It's even better when obscure performers, without the benefit of celebrity or hype, use their training, skill and passion to introduce this music to the listening public.

So it is with considerable excitement that I recommend a marvelous new recording of the music of the American composer Robert Baksa by the Heim Duo. This husband and wife team (Annette on the flute; Bret on classical guitar), is based in Mobile, Alabama. Their playing is precise and passionate; intimately intuitive and wondrously complementary. The music, all of it written over the last decade or so, is both exuberant and memorable, but never predictable.

Baksa's music is hard to categorize. He uses a tonal and modal vocabulary that is fresh but completely approachable. After numerous playings this ingratiating disc has wired into my musical consciousness in a remarkably satisfying and permanent way. Programmatically, the disc is also successful. In the two-part opener, the Heim Duo is joined by an equally sensitive and facile performer, violist Christine Bock. A Sonata and a Suite for flute and guitar called Celestials bookend a solo guitar sonata and there never seems to be a point where interest wanes, a credit both to the composer and the performers.

Now that a particularly harsh mid-Atlantic winter is fading, the optimism, verve and evocative nature of this disc beckons spring like return of the songbirds. Sumptuous music that is at times pastoral, other times vigorous, this is perfect music to enjoy the earth's reawakening.

"Journeys" is a scintillating treasure. Folk music devotees as well as classical music enthusiasts should find this disc thoroughly enjoyable. I have no hesitation in urging all discerning listeners who enjoy chamber music featuring flute and guitar to investigate this disc.
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