Wayne Alpern | The Shape of Strings Review
by Illiam Sebitz
Wayne Alpern is a prolific composer, arranger, and music scholar based in New York City. Alpern’s fluid compositional style integrates popular and jazz idioms with classical techniques, ensembles, and structures. His work includes numerous jazz arrangements, string quartets, woodwind and brass quintets, mixed ensembles, string orchestra pieces, and piano works. The Shape of Strings is Alpern exploring his contemporary style of cross-genre techniques with the talented String Orchestra of New York City. The ensemble beautifully performs nine of Alpern’s compositions structured into three suites with three movements each.
Reinvention is the first suite on the album. Opening with a witty, infectious first movement that establishes Alpern’s effective use of rhythm, as his sonorities are a cross between Romantic structures and impressionistic pastels. Alpern finds infinite variety within his theme over the course of the three movements, with variations that span a dynamic range and three-dimensional contrapuntal figures, all supported with nuanced orchestration. The writing balances techniques of arco and pizzicato to burn in the virtuoso passages. Still, nothing is ever splashy or brash, and his classical restraint makes the modern harmony come out fresh and clear.
Divertimento’s three movements exhibit thoughtfully colored motifs with a mixture of counterpoint and ensemble figures which linger in the mind’s ear with lyrical shapes. As Alpern makes his way through the movements, we are delighted with the wide-ranging palate in which he conveys his ideas. Each theme is depicted with equal vividness, drawing our attention to individual colors and textures with insightful precision as the boldly-etched contrasting lines have a sort of Monet-ish Impressionism that swirl with a detailed description in the sound stage. Alpern is not in a rush to explore his musical ideas; his slow progress in developing each theme is hypnotically conveyed with balanced orchestral weight from the string ensemble.
The Shape of Strings is a delightful find. The classical genre is rich with performances of the history of classical music, but finding new music with such depth and musicality is rare. Alpern’s mastery of multiple styles has clearly allowed him the ability to musically paint in colors that eschew genres and develop into rewarding musical canvases. Alpern summons the narrative of modern classical music that is fascinatingly composed and superbly performed.
Release Date: September 9, 2022
Label: Henri Elkan Music
About the author
Born and raised in a picturesque European village, my fondness for music began during my formative years, when the charismatic tones of the recorder first filled the halls of my primary school. This early fascination escalated into my lifelong pursuit of embracing the melodious charm of the flute; I have even spent time refining my skills at a music conservatoire. As a seasoned music connoisseur, I find myself captivated by the multifaceted world of music. I enjoy writing music reviews to better enable me to explore genres as diverse as world, rock, jazz, classical, folk, and film music, each offering a unique auditory journey that enriches my life and intellect.
In my spare moments, you'll likely find me meticulously crafting my latest woodworking project, sharpening my skills with flute etudes, or inventing tales of fantasy through the art of creative writing. My eclectic interests and expertise harmonize to create a symphony of passion and curiosity that resonates within every aspect of my life as a music enthusiast.