C. J. Darnieder

An “enthused enthusiast,” as he calls himself, is the young American classical composer C. J. Darnieder, and in his numerous works thus far (he is both productive and exacting, a frequent revisor of the already accomplished), the smaller pieces and also a symphony or two alike, one hears an exuberant style emerging, inscribing an impish sense of musical humor into the music and apportioning it with a deft touch. These compositions tend to take leaps, and even when they hew to a nocturnal mood, through their tempo and pace an overarching cheerfulness still buoys the listener up, as a countervailing power to all seriousness. Although they avoid elation and are not simply jeux d’esprit, frequently the results are light-hearted and sprightly.

Notwithstanding Darnieder’s conscientious declaration of his musical debts on his Facebook page, where the composers who’ve inspired him are listed, with Stravinsky taking first place amongst them, the exuberance sounds to be his, whether one listens for it only on the whole, or follows it into the details – of which there are a great many in this decidedly non-minimal music, and of these quite a few constitute small moments or even miniature pieces of inventiveness in their own right.

Darnieder seems particularly inventive in adding a slight emphasis to what otherwise would remain a mere undercurrent, namely the competition for attention between the different instruments, or else their musicians – in other words, the nearly imperceivable antagonism which most often lends an undistinguished uniform tint to their mutual relations, is refracted inventively into a spectrum of acoustic nuances, a diversifying procedure which in some passages brings the music to scintillate.

On his Soundcloud page there are four works to note. The first, “Der Man Ferder Over” – the Norwegian phrase means something like the place where one crosses – a work for two pianos, was performed some years ago in Hannover (with a humorous pause elucidated in the notes under the recording), while the second, “Night Minds,” had its premier at Northwestern University, closer to Darnieder’s home in Milwaukee. Next are two of the “Preludes for Piano,” and lastly is the third part, “Maypoles,” of his “Four Bagatelles for Woodwind Quartet,” where the mischievous humor runs rings around the title itself.