Critical Commentary



The September/October 2013 issue of Fanfare Magazine carried reviews

of the four CDs recently released on KASP Records (see previous menu)

and included interviews with Mateusz Borowiak (the pianist for the last

recording) and me.  All this was as I had contracted, for I wished to 

present the results of this mammoth multi-CD project to the public in a

dignified and comprehensive manner.  What I did not expect was that Joel

Flegler, Fanfare’s editor and publisher, evidently finding the music 

deserving, secretly approached not one but three reviewers to critique

each work in turn.  I present excerpts of these commentaries here and 

conclude with relevant passages from Mateusz’s interview.




David DeBoor Canfield:  From the opening notes of [String Quartet No.1]

on the first CD…, I was gripped by the heartfelt emotional intensity of the 

music that came to my ears… His is clearly music of its time, but not

molded according to any current or past trends.  The flowing lines of the

quartet are underscored by gently dissonant sonorities, whose tension

never lets up despite its greater or lesser prominence over the course of 

the work… Its second movement is entitled “I Weave You A Shroud,” and 

is embedded with almost gut-wrenching pathos.  The entire quartet is spun

out from a germ that consists of a rising fourth followed by a major third. 

The composer considers this his first mature work. This reviewer certainly 

views it as such, quite worthy to be placed in any quartet recital.  Only in 

the final movement does the rhythmic activity pick up to any degree, and 

the figuration that is handed around to each of the instruments sustains 

interest very well.


Prayer Suite for violin and piano was originally written as a memorial to the 

parents of the composer’s wife, but upon her death he rededicated it to her

memory.  This one-movement suite of several sections seems to well 

portray in its rapidly changing moods the various components of prayer

(adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication).  This is music that

is profound while maintaining accessibility to players and hearers alike.


I Weave You A Shroud is for a cappella vocal sextet, although it was 

originally written for a seven-part full chorus with soloists.  The title was

created by the composer’s wife…, who used it for the thousands of 

drawings she created to memorialize specific victims of the Holocaust. 

The music is drawn almost entirely from the composer’s String Quartet

No.1, but between the arrangement and the much different timbre of the 

singers, it didn’t sound at all familiar to my ears, which just minutes before

had auditioned the quartet.


The CD is closed out with Pelosi’s String Quartet No.2, which bears the 

subtitle of “Rosemarie Koczÿ In Memoriam”… It is additionally an act of 

homage to Bach, containing the opening theme of his D Minor Concerto,

BWV 1052, albeit transposed down a half step in an attempt to re-create

the actual key of what would have been considered D Minor in Bach’s day.

The last note of the quartet is its fulcrum throughout, and is intended as an

expressions of the composer’s undying love for his departed wife.  It is a

very touching effect — and piece.


The second CD of this set … is devoted to Pelosi’s 37 Inventions, Canons

and Fugues:  Variations on a Single Motif for piano, a major work of more

than an hour’s duration, and a sequel to the composer’s 13 Preludes and

Fugues… Pelosi’s style is immediately recognizable in the harmonic 

structure of these works, but they go somewhat beyond most of the other

pieces under review here in terms of strict contrapuntal writing…

Obviously, a work of this sort allows its creator to demonstrate his

craftsmanship, and Pelosi does so very convincingly.  Even Hindemith in 

his much-admired Ludus Tonalis does not exceed the skill that Pelosi 

brings to this work.


The third disc ... returns to chamber music, beginning with Pelosi’s Piano

Trio.  The first movement begins with a busy opening… Repeated notes ...

serve to impart a restless character… The second and concluding 

movement of the work slows the tempo down quite a bit, and is double the

length of that of the first… This movement is introspective, and evokes a

feeling of a time fondly and nostalgically remembered.  There are also 

elegiac aspects…


The Woodwind Quartet … is a major addition to the woodwind literature…

I would put it on the same level of inspiration as the much admired (and

performed) Trois pièces brèves of Jacques Ibert.


Pelosi’s Elegy for Brass Quintet (Revisited)…was originally composed in 

tribute to a family friend, but after the death of his wife, the composer 

expanded the work and made it a eulogy for her.  As expected, the work

is somber, and is slightly reminiscent of the Barber Adagio for Strings

with its long flowing lines, albeit containing slightly more piquant

harmonies, and a few lively moments en route.


The composer closes out his series of works in tribute to his wife with his

String Quartet No.3… To symbolize the act of “closing,” Pelosi has 

brought back material from the first movement of the quartet to conclude 

the fourth movement.  Along the way, he has also utilized subjects, 

patterns, and textures found in the first movement… As intended, the 

quartet makes a profound impression… Much great art has been created

by composers and other artists who have suffered loss.  The works on

these tribute CDs are, I can attest, great art…


The final item in this group of recordings is a two-disc set devoted to

Pelosi’s 13 Preludes and Fugues, with Epilogue… Even more than the 

37 Inventions, Canons and Fugues, this series…delineates clearly 

articulated contrapuntal lines… There is much variety in these works such

that the listener’s attention never flags… [T]his work stands up very well

against others of its kind, such as Shostakovich’s cycle of preludes and



In short, Louis Pelosi is a remarkable composer, and if his music doesn’t

touch you, I’d be very surprised…




Colin Clarke:  [In] String Quartet No. 1…there is a sure hand at work, 

both in the contrapuntal workings of the first movement (some material

from which reappears in the Grand Fugue from the 13 Preludes and

Fugues…) and the lyricism of the quarter-hour second… [T]he third 

movement is actually the slow movement proper, a Lentamente assai

that speaks with a glorious, held-breath purity before segueing into a

sprightly finale…


The Prayer Suite…is a most approachable piece, shot through with an 

autumnal glow… [I]ts poignancy is most eloquent…


The performance reproduced here of I Weave You A Shroud ... is ... spirited

…at times bringing to mind the close imitations of Elizabethan madrigals.


String Quartet No. 2 ... is not easy listening, but neither is contemplating

another’s grief… Yet we should meditate on these things, as death seeks 

us all, eventually.  Pelosi offers us a way, by sharing his own pain.  

Perhaps the blossoming of the Bach later in the piece is to invoke some 

sort of transcendental place of hope?  As I say, not easy listening.


The 37 Inventions, Canons and Fugues that comprise part two of the 

memorial is the sequel to 13 Preludes and Fugues, with Epilogue… The

composer states that it also completes the other, contemporaneous

piece in terms of contrapuntal emphasis.  Inventions dominate the 

earlier part, while fugues dominate the later part with strict canons

being inserted at regular intervals like a sort of structural tactus… Along

the way comes a variety of fugues, from the massively angular Fugue in

F# to the solemn yet contemplative Fugue in E (a piece which puts me in

mind of late Beethoven) and the playful but bittersweet Fugue in A and

beyond.  The finale. which itself comprises part five in its entirety, oozes



The Piano Trio … (no surprises here) uses a double fugue to bring the

various strands together.  [A] theme of the slow movement is taken from

the Inventions, Canons and Fugues…, the second subject from No.26, to

be accurate, music that Pelosi was composing when his wife died … the 

work finds Pelosi once more in poignant expression… there is a 

particularly effective moment just after the seven-minute mark when the 

music opens out to hope, a little akin to opening a window to let the

fresh air in…


The Woodwind Quartet is a delight, especially the “pecking” staccatos of

the first movement.  There is, of course, counterpoint in various guises

aplenty (we have learned by now that counterpoint is the composer’s life

blood), while there are some poignant harmonies to the central Tranquillo.

The finale is as jaunty as they come…


The brass Elegy ... is a rather grim work, but powerfully so.


Finally, String Quartet No.3.  The composer writes that this piece “finally

brings to a close my decision to record in music my devotion to my 

beloved Rosemarie”… The second theme [of the first movement] 

effectively depicts Rosemarie (the composer refers to it “coming from”

her)… [In] the second movement, with its contrasts of pizzicato against

somewhat restless, legato, arco lines…, the chorale-like hymnic passages

carry a weight of grief with them that is banished by the pizzicato… The

third movement is the emotional heart of the work, another powerful 

elegy… The finale contains struggle, as any grief process must … yet the

sweetness towards the close reminds us there is hope yet.  The work ends

with a question mark, as really it must.


13 Preludes and Fugues, with Epilogue … are arranged into groups of 

four, with the fourth group being the longest and most demonstrative (the

cycle ends with a Grand Fugue in C for “2, 3, 4 and 5 voices”).  The First

Prelude immediately sets out Pelosi’s credentials as a multifaceted

composer.  There are tonal references, but they are rather suspended…

The deliberate frustration of expectations … early on seems to … prepare

us for the longer pieces later in the cycle… It becomes immediately

obvious … when we arrive at the Grand Prelude … that Pelosi is moving 

up a notch… That the Prelude lasts eight minutes and the Fugue ten 

reflects this… The Fugue is knotty and unpredictable, with an oasis of 

calm towards the end that provides a moment of soul-stilling peace… A

brief, three-minute, chorale-like epilogue … with moments of quasi-

improvisation, rounds off a fascinating listening experience… There is a

range and breadth of expression here that, despite the fact this work 

spreads over two discs and lasts around an hour and a half, seems only 

hinted at… Recommended.




Lynn René Bayley:  This was one of the more daunting challenges 

thrown at me by our editor.  These [four] CDs … came to me out of the

blue with a sticky note saying “Special assignment … one review with

[four]  headnotes.”  Immediately, then, I was asked to immerse myself in

the music of a composer completely unknown to me and hopefully like it

enough to encourage others to do the same.


He needn’t have worried.  One listen to parts of CD 3 in this series, and I

knew that, whatever his background, Louis Pelosi was an outstanding 

composer whose work sounds like no one else’s.  I was hooked.


… I discovered that Pelosi … “declined to enter academia or the 

commercial music world,” choosing instead to make his living as a “self-

employed piano technician.”  Already I liked him!  Happily, the quality of his

music only fed my enthusiasm for him as a person… I heartily applaud his

personal decision to work outside the system.  It has allowed him to

create music that pleases himself first and foremost, and by doing so he 

has maintained an extraordinarily high standard as well as his personal



Focusing on String Quartet No.1 … one is struck by the unusual balance

of the movements:  the second movement is as long as the first and third

put together, and in fact almost as long as the entire String Quartet No. 2.

Thus one can see, even before listening, that the weight of the music is

tilted in that direction, somewhat like the slow movement of Schubert’s

“Death and the Maiden” Quartet…


As it turns out, the second movement is not (as one might expect) an 

elegiac lament but rather a rhythmically energetic piece written in a 

dense contrapuntal style — yet again, Pelosi defies what we might expect 

to hear.  Indeed, despite his later setting of it for voices, it is far less

lyrical or songlike than the first movement and, if anything, the 

contrapuntal web it weaves entraps the melodic fragments and its 

permutations in a tight enclosure.  In a sense, then, this music is a shroud,

and only when it pauses and becomes more ruminative (following which

pizzicato violin and viola lead back to an even tighter contrapuntal section)

does one feel the least bit of relaxation in the music.  Eventually, with a 

high held violin note, relaxation finally arrives, but the mood then remains

restless and sad.  The remaining two movements, played without 

interruption, comment on and expand some of the motifs heard earlier.


The Prayer Suite … was built around a short “song-like piano piece

[Pelosi] wrote upon meeting [Rosemarie] … in 1980,” a large chamber

work composed for her the following year, and “the expansion of this

composition into a violin concerto” … that was never performed.  It’s a

fascinating piece that shows how adept Pelosi is at writing terser and more

condensed works; nothing sounds particularly rushed or compressed, yet

rather unfolds like the opening of a flower, each petal unique and both

inspiring and enticing the listener as the musical journey goes on.  I heard

this piece as being a concerto, with the piano part acting more like an

orchestral than as a solo accompaniment.  It only occasionally plays 

underlying chords to set off the violin, but rather most of the time goes its

own way, weaving a separate musical story and thus making the piece

even richer in both texture and meaning.


I Weave You A Shroud, as it turns out, begins in a more morbid vein than

the instrumental piece it is based on… Nevertheless, as the piece goes 

on, one is caught up in the highly interesting and individual way Pelosi

writes for voices, and the music develops … quite independent of the 

string quartet … it is based on.


String Quartet No.2 is an entirely different animal from the First.  …the 

juxtaposition of slow and fast sections almost makes it sound episodic.  

This is not intended as a criticism, but merely as description.  It is very

unusual music — once again pointing out how individual Pelosi is as a 

composer… [T]he piece works because Pelosi’s musical mind knows how

to knit things together and not make it sound either contrived or 

hackneyed.  It’s a remarkable piece, continuous throughout its eighteen

and a half minutes, and has so many things to say that it holds your

attention from start to finish.


The second CD consists entirely of his 78-minute work, 37 Inventions,

Canons and Fugues on a Single Motif.  …it’s one of those works (of 

which there are so very few in the piano literature) that can actually be

excerpted or played in its entirety … [T]he “transposable motif” on which

all 37 pieces are based [is] a “central pitch, a fourth below and a fourth

above it.” … Yet what Pelosi is able to do with this three-note snippet (for

that is, really, all it is) is quite amazing and complex… As the collection

wends its way along, one is aware that the music becomes more and 

more abstract, denser, and more emotionally foreboding.  The final

peroration is the densest and craggiest music of all:  a mixture of canons,

inventions, and fugues, eventually riding a long, slow diminuendo into the



Following such a piece, Pelosi’s Piano Trio, which opens CD 3, almost 

sounds Brahmsian in its melodic contours and primarily tonal bias.  …like

Brahms, Pelosi has found a way to incorporate older forms — in this case,

a double fugue — into his own musical language and make it breathe with

an entirely new life…


The Woodwind Quartet … written (Pelosi tells us) before Rosemarie’s 

illness and death, is a cheerful, upbeat piece, contrasting a slow

movement … between two faster ones.  Written in quasi-canon form and 

using “strict imitative procedures,” the music chirps along in its happy 

journey from start to finish.


The Elegy for Brass Quintet (Revisited) begins and ends in sadness, but

there is a decidedly upbeat, celebratory section in ragtime rhythm that 

gives a momentary respite from the dominant mood.  Like so many of

Pelosi’s pieces, however, the music continually morphs in mood, texture,

and complexity, and one need only open one’s ears to ride the wave of his



String Quartet No. 3, at least in the first movement, is built around a 

repeated four-note descending motif which returns in canon form, then 

becomes a fugue while developing and changing,  Yet those four notes

continue to dominate the proceedings, even when the tempo suddenly

picks up, though it is then disguised somewhat before its return in the

slower tempo… The second movement is characterized by pizzicato in a

relaxed tempo, which creates an unusual feeling of rhythmic stasis rather

than momentum, and in the Largo, Pelosi’s gift for writing lovely yet sad

melodies imbues the music with its melancholy — the principal movement

dedicated to Rosemarie, though [he] indicates that “When it returns, its 

counterpoint, or rather its counterpart, is … me.”  There is a tremendous 

feeling of quietude to this music, at the end more a feeling of fading into 

the vapor than of resolution.  The last movement, despite its up-tempo

feeling, is never quite settled or comfortable, but rather is the most 

fragmented movement of the four; at the end, the lead violin flies up into

the stratosphere, alone and unsupported, in a quiet lament.


13 Preludes and Fugues, with Epilogue: [t]his disc … may be taken to be,

in essence, Vol. 4 of Louis Pelosi’s tribute to his late wife, Rosemarie 

Koczÿ.  The composer explains that they were essentially written for her

even though the score is dedicated to his two principal teachers, Susan

Tenenbaum and Arnold Franchetti… Pelosi’s style is uniquely his own… 

In the early part … the preludes tend to be fairly brief, the fugues extended

and thus establishing themselves as the cornerstones or foundation of the

work as a whole.  Because of this unusual balance, the fugues not only

dominate the listener’s consciousness but also become a sort of nexus, 

which binds the work together, as well as making much of it sound 

continuous to the listener.  This is also conditioned by the nature of the

preludes which, as they become busier and louder, begin to resemble the

fugues as well.  Yet these are mere generalizations one can make during 

the listening experience.  Since the music grabs the mind and very 

carefully makes an imprint on it, one can hear the connections between 

the individual pieces without having specific themes or Leitmotifs 

hammered out.  Harmonic and rhythmic cells within the music recur and 

yet morph; it is music that says something, and does not just “make a

nice impression” as so much modern music does.  Pelosi’s cycle may 

never achieve the status or popularity of other such works in this genre,

but it deserves to do so… One could easily go on at considerable length, 

and in considerable detail, over the remarkable quality of this score, but in

the end the listening experience says far more than words can… As with 

the triptych reviewed above, I recommend this disc very highly.




Interview with Mateusz Borowiak:


Q:  When and how did you and Louis Pelosi meet?


A:  It is a long story.  One day I received a call from the Friends of the 

Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, suggesting a recording

project of a “monumental, polyphonic work” by American composer Louis

Pelosi… I had a lot of engagements at that time, so, prudently, I asked to

see the score of the work before agreeing to take it on.  The full score, in

beautiful, uncannily precise handwriting, arrived a few weeks later, leaving

me to explore the work before finally agreeing to go ahead with the



Q:  What qualities in his music appealed to you?


A:  When I first saw the score, I was struck by the immense thought-

processes that seemed to govern the writing.  It was a monumental work,

both in painstaking attention to detail and large-scale form.  I noticed a 

very unique harmonic and tonal language, in fact, one that I had never 

experienced before.  The more I explored the Preludes and Fugues, the 

more I could appreciate the lack of superfluity.  In fact, I could extract an

endless amount of meaning out of every sound, motive, or harmonic

gesture.  You cannot imagine the satisfaction one has when delving 

deeper and deeper into musical material, to find seemingly endless 

interpretational solutions.


Q:  Given that Louis is not really a pianist himself, do you find his piano

writing pianistic?


A:  I think his music has such a strong structural integrity that it is above 

any discussion of pianistic or unpianistic writing.  It uses the sonority and

colors of the piano very well and does not require extreme resources, but 

somehow I feel it would also sound good for any other group of 



Q:  What were some of the pianistic challenges in Pelosi’s magnum opus?


A:  The immense complexity of the counterpoint was the biggest 

challenge.  I particularly wanted the construction to be apparent to 

listeners, so that they could perceive it in a similar way to looking at a

complex piece of architecture… I also wanted to show the shattering

emotional aspect of the work… Louis seemed to like the result; I hope that

will also be the case with other people!