Robert Starer (1924-2001, American)

Though born in Vienna, I’ll call Robert Starer an “American” composer, because his adult life and compositional career were spent, indeed, in the USA: in 1938, aged 14, just after the Anschluss (annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany), he fled to Palestine, then established in New York in 1947. He taught composition at Juilliard, Brooklyn College and City University of New York – the epitome, you might say, of the “Academic composer”, as one of his discmates, Earl Kim (see below). For more on Starer see this short and moving autobiography on his own website (link will open new tab; and if you think you are reading double, we are affected by the same medical problem) and this fascinating episode from his early apprentice days in Jerusalem.

I’ve heard and reviewed three concertos of Starer and although they offer some rewards, I find that he is a relatively anonymous contemporay compositional voice, writing in a style (or styles), from the brooding-meditative to the angular and grim, that is/are not particularly distinctive nor unmistakably attributable to him.

Concerto for Viola (1958). Melvin Berger, English Chamber Orchestra, John Snashall 1965 in The American Composers Series – American Concertos, with Concertos of Benjamin Lees, Meyer Kupferman, Michael Colgrass, Lou Harrison, Walter Piston, William Bergsma. 2 CDs VoxBox CDX 5158 (1996)

Violin Concerto (1981). Ithzak Perlman, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa April 1983 (with Violin Concerto of Earl Kim). EMI CDC 7 49328 2 (1988)

Concerto for Cello (1988). Janos Starker, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston, Leon Botstein February 1991 (with Concertos of Richard Wernick, Richard Wilson). CRI CD 618 (1992)

For more music of Starer, see the discography on his website.



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