from The New York Times, Tuesday, March 15, 1977

Violin Recital, Amram Work Offer sparkle


Folk music is the richest source of material available to any composer, but remarkably few have the taste and imagination necessary to take the basic stuff, recycle it and transmute it into something personal and contemporary. Don't most listeners learn to wince at the prospect of hearing, say "Variations on a Barndance Tune"? Yes.

American Indian songs would seem to offer even less scope than most folk material, confined as they are, in large part, to narrowly ranging chants and unyielding rhythms. But David Amram's "Native American Portraits" which had its first performance on Sunday night at Alice Tully Hall, not only embraced the limitations of the genre, but bent them to his uses. The three-section piece for violin, piano and percussion turned out to be a technically simple but inventive and evocative work, the best by Mr. Amram, in fact, that this listener can recall hearing.

The Amram premiere lent added interest to a violin recital by Seymour Wakschal that was a series of high points.


For Mr. Amram's piece, the violinist and the pianist were joned by Ben Harms, a small percussion battery that included a marimba for the middle, or Seneca, movement. The other movements used music of the Cheyenne and Zuni nations, including a buffalo dance, a woman's corn-grinding song, hand-game song and war dances.

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