Composition Reviews                                     

Clavier, December 1995

Dashing Duets for Dapper Duos-Peter Arnstein (Manduca Music Publications)

From among several new arrangements for piano ensemble by this publisher, Arnstein’s original works stand out in their fresh treatment of rhythm and harmony. In the D-major piece, “Only Two Claps,” offbeat two-note slurs create rhythmic interest. Students briefly leave their five-finger position to clap, building suspense as the audience wonders when those two claps will recur. Building on this skill, a later piece with performers clapping on downbeats requires concentration and coordination. Besides articulation and rhythmic devices, several of the pieces use blues tones and other non-harmonic notes for color. In “Traffic Jam” performers play alternating black and white clusters with the palm of the hand. Older students will appreciate the seventh-chord harmonies of “Cricket in the Reeds” and the dynamic rhythmic patterns of “Threatening Shadows.” Considering the limited range and level of sophistication, this collection would work especially well for late beginners.
The American Music Teacher February/March 1997

Dashing Duets for Dapper Duos -Peter Arnstein (Manduca Music Publications)

Dashing Duets for Dapper Duos, subtitled Ten Terrific Twosomes to Tickle One’s Fancy, should do exactly that for the upper-elementary to early-intermediate student. “Traffic Jam,” the first piece in the set, uses black and white five-finger clusters, sometimes black against white, to effect the “jam.” The traffic clears on a G tonal center.

“Alternating Rhythms” uses quarters and eighths in D minor and calls for quick dynamic changes. “Alternating Claps” is sure to bring smiles as players punctuate playing with single-beat fortissimo claps that require excellent coordination. The clever “Walking on Eggshells” is to be played “delicately.” The focus here is on rhythmic precision. The last three pieces in the set are the most adventurous. “Crickets in the Reeds” uses delightful dissonance.

“Threatening Shadows” adds interesting shifting rhythms to spicy sonorities, while “Galloping Shadows” continues those sonorities with a different rhythmic twist and tempo. The dissonance in these last pieces is refreshing.

Musical rather than pedagogical values are a priority in this collection. Editing is clear. Attention to articulation, dynamics and rhythm is called for in equal measure for both primo and secondo parts. The set is a welcome addition to the duet literature.

Reviewed by Wilma Machover, Scarsdale, New York
Sylmar Chamber Ensemble and Macalester Trio
Minneapolis Star & Tribune, February 27, 1990

Sylmar’s program in the afternoon at the Bakken Museum was made up of new works, all of which were given their first performance in this concert…. Humor in music works the way jokes work, either through incongruity or through the setting up of an expectation that is either not delivered or reversed in some way. Arnstein works in the latter vein, getting his effects through changes in tempo--a sudden speed-up or, in imitation of the rusty music boxes, a lugubrious slow-down.

Arnstein also makes use of incongruity in his “Song of Two Hicks and a Dreamer,” paired later with “Song of One Hick and Two Dreamers.” In the former, the moody piano part contrasts with the jaunty, heedless woodwind parts, whereas, in the latter, it’s the bassoon and the flute that take the role of dreamer. These pieces, composed in a rather French style, are well made. Arnstein and his colleagues—flutist Janis Weller, oboist Amy Bloom, bassoonist Laurie Merz—played them skillfully.

Reviewed by Michael Anthony, Staff Writer