Also Available


Chamber Music of David Carlson

David Carlson


Emil Miland, Violoncello
David Korevaar, Piano

Commissioned by Noe Valley Chamber Music



"What a neat, enjoyable program this is. So often, for understandable budgetary reasons, most contemporary albums resemble a frantic mishmash of all the works the composer could cram into one disc, regardless of genre, so that this elegantly written, likewise played, set of two sonatas comes as a refreshing change... this album is one of refined intimacy... A viola sonata in all but name, True Divided Light is resolutely melodic and accessible... It has an elegant opening, with the skittish twists of the viola sitting perfectly against the cool, placid piano writing. It is almost a Minimalist piece, simple but very fresh, bracing, and modern...  The cello sonata [is] a poised, elusive work... The gloomy start and unsettled harmonies create a more complex work... Carlson keeps his emotions close to his chest here; the first movement is quite jittery and mysterious, reaching an agonizing climax before coming to exhausted, plaintive rest. Even before I read the notes, the tonal resolution of this piece gave this work a deathly peace, after the drama of what went on before... In both works the piano is the calming voice, with Carlson’s pattern of gentle chords and runs framing the wiry, more dramatic string writing effectively. Not that this makes David Korevaar shy away from his formidable string partners, Geraldine Walther (viola of the Takács Quartet) and Emil Miland. In short, the playing is utterly brilliant and the sound and presentation is all one could wish for, and I do hope MSR tries its utmost to market this. In the midst of a lot of good but forgettable contemporary music, True Divided Light is a hidden gem, and I do wish there were some more secure way of breaking new work on the international chamber scene. It certainly deserves it."
Barnaby Rayfield, Fanfare - May/June 2011
"[David Carlson's] music is large in scale and quite understandable emotionally... This is moody, imaginative music with a lot to say... Both works are performed with beauty and involvement."
D. Moore, American Record Guide- May/June 2011
"The pieces receive vibrantly delineated performances by two articulate and adroit musicians, viola player Geraldine Walther and cellist Emil Miland, who immerse themselves in fluent partnerships with David Korevaar, an excellent pianist. Carlson could hardly ask for finer champions [of his music]."
Gramophone - March 2011
"[True Divided Light has] an attractive combination of Messiaen-like harmonic luminosity with the harmonic side-stepping of Prokofiev... barn-storming moto perpetuo delivered with much gusto..."
[ * * * * ] BBC Music - March 2011
"[David Carlson's music] on the evidence of this CD, is both absorbing and accessible... The first movement of True Divided Light is reminiscent of Philip Glass in places, but this is not minimalism by a long chalk. In fact, both works on the disc are complex, expressive and tonal. Anyone appreciative of the chamber music of, say, Shostakovich or Martinu, should find this much to their taste - which is not to say that Carlson sounds either 'old-fashioned' or like either of them; his voice is his own. True Divided Light is both energetic and lyrical, mystical and luminous... The Sonata for Cello and highly demanding of both cellist Emil Miland and pianist David Korevaar, who acquit themselves very well... All three very experienced soloists have the highest credentials, being widely recorded, champions of contemporary music and recipients of various awards and honours. Miland in particular has a longstanding and close working relationship with Carlson, with various commissions and first performances to his credit... Given that the Sonata is grippingly superb, it is astonishing that it has taken 20 years for the public to be able to hear a recording of it, and kudos to the supporting Foundations and MSR Classics for making it happen... The sound balance and general audio quality is very good."
Byzantion, MusicWeb International - February 2011
True Divided Light is an architectural term for a window constructed of multiple panes of glass, where each pane is individually set in its own mullions, or dividers. The earliest known true divided light windows were fitted with thin pieces of alabaster set between dividers of lead or stone. In the fifth century, rondels—discs of spun glass—were connected to form larger expanses of light. The concept continued to evolve into the huge multicolored rose windows of Notre Dame and, in our century, entire buildings constructed with glass exteriors.

True Divided Light is a work of absolute music. There is no specific program. But the term suggests a number of evocative metaphors: light versus darkness, a window into the soul, and, in the case of stained glass, refracted colors juxtaposed to convey meaning and emotion. In two contrasting movements of equal duration, True Divided Light is conceived as a succession of emotional states varying in mood and intensity. The first movement, Lento luminoso, presents three main ideas: a series of pensive chords followed by a broad, soulful melody for the viola, then a hymn-like arpeggiated section marked mistico, and a third idea in which figurations in the piano are mirrored by the viola at a much slower speed. The movement closes with the mistico music. The second movement also contains three main ideas. The first, Presto strepitoso, is characterized by exhuberant triplet figures and builds to a thundering climax before settling down. The character changes with the appearance of a folk-like tune (inspired by music heard from a street musician playing a Hardanger fiddle in St. Petersburg, Russia), and the mood transforms again with a radiant, lyrical melody. A variation of the triplet music returns, more insistent this time, and the piece hurtles energetically towards its conclusion, ending with a cascade of scales and a series of bright, triumphant chords.

True Divided Light is the first work commissioned by Noe Valley Chamber Music and was made possible by grants from the Carol Franc Buck Foundation and the American Composers Forum, SF Chapter. The work is dedicated to Carol Franc Buck, a longtime supporter of Mr. Carlson’s music.

The Cello Sonata was commissioned by Chamber Music America for cellist Emil Miland and pianist Robin Sutherland. It is the first of many significant collaborations between Carlson and Miland, which include Nocturno, a  motet-concerto in Renaissance style for cello and eight-part male chorus, commissioned and first performed by Miland and the famed vocal ensemble Chanticleer; Cello Concerto No. 1, Cello Concerto No. 2, premiered by Miland and the Bay Area’s New Century Chamber Orchestra, and the brief elegiac work Vocalise. Fifteen years separate the Sonata for Cello and Piano from True Divided Light, and though obviously by the same composer, they differ greatly in their stylistic temperments: while the viola work is boisterous and outgoing, the Sonata is inward-looking and contemplative. Having been written during the height of the the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, the composer has suggested that perhaps its moods are reflective of those times. The piece is taxing in the extreme for both instruments, not only in technical difficulty but in the expressive nuances specified. The work is in a single movement subdivided into distinct sections. A dark opening motif is heard and slowly developed in back and forth utterances between the piano and cello in a “secco” style, reaching a great climax; true to sonata form this section is repeated. A new idea follows with the cello imitating a middle-Eastern stringed instrument (the first of America’s wars in Afganistan was then underway, hence the influence). This is followed by a broad and lyrical melody for the cello, opening in a plaintive octave-drop, which is then developed, ending in a series of low, ghostly chords, evocative of the tolling of distant church bells. This is followed by a will ‘o the wisp scherzo, with very rapid figurations barely ever rising above pianissimo. After a grand climax, the plaintive tune returns, with the sonata fading into a lyrical, calm, dolcissimo C major ending.

Noe Valley Chamber Music has been presenting concerts since 1992 in one of San Francisco’s most charming neighborhoods. The acoustically superior hall and the intimate ambience of the beautiful Noe Valley Ministry church have enhanced the chamber music experience for audiences and performers alike. NVCM is committed to innovative programming and the commissioning of new works. It has presented several world premieres of American composers by performers who fervently believe in the promotion of American music. David Carlson’s “True Divided Light” is the first work commissioned by NVCM.

TRUE DIVIDED LIGHT for Viola and Piano

SONATA for Cello and Piano

MSR Classics