WORLD PREMIERES • Christopher Ludwa, Gerry Amato1, cond; Bloomington SO • BSO CD 20051 (64:52)
CANFIELD Symphony No. 2, “Israel.” MECKLER In Memory Yet Green. HARTIN Night in Old Vienna. UNDERWOOD AmishRead more Farms. LECUONA Andalusia. Vacilón. POWERS Irresistible Force
Christopher Ludwa became music director and conductor of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra in April 2005. He is also the artistic director of the Indianapolis Arts Chorale, conductor of the Bloomington Pops Orchestra, and director of arts at the International School of Indiana. It is his intention to perform and record worthy compositions by area residents, and this disc is indicative of that desire. This is the first recording of all the music on this disc, although the pieces by Ernesto Lecuona are well known in other arrangements.
In 1974, composer David DeBoor Canfield enrolled in graduate school at Indiana University, where his teachers included John Eaton, Bernhard Heiden, and Frederick Fox. His dissertation piece, a concerto for piano and orchestra, won the Dean’s Composition Competition and was premiered by the Indiana University Orchestra. Canfield is the current composer-in-residence of the Bloomington Pops Orchestra, which has performed more than a dozen of his pieces over the last 12 years. His Second Symphony, subtitled “Israel,” is a hard-driving work that does not contain any Jewish folk music. However, it does have a part for shofar in the last movement, and some most enjoyable music for flute and percussion. Canfield writes well for orchestra and he gives various groups of instruments equal time in the limelight.
Dennis Meckler is a percussionist with the Bloomington Symphony who also plays with other ensembles in that area. His In Memory Yet Green is a memorial to his parents. Although it starts quietly and has some introspective qualities, it is not overly sad. Paul Hartin plays tuba with the Bloomington Symphony. His melodic and danceable waltz Night in Old Vienna is a welcome change from the modern music that precedes it on the disc. It’s a bit like a waltz recalled in a dream. James Underwood composed his German-American Festival in 1997. The first movement, “Amish Farms,” contains the 12th-century German hymn Christ ist Erstanden (Christ is Risen) reworked with modern harmonies that nevertheless evoke the jubilation of the Easter story.
Guest conductor Gerry Amato’s 2005 arrangement of Ernesto Lecuona’s well-known Andalusia involves rather overpowering percussion. If you would like to hear Andalusia exquisitely sung, you can find it on Plácido Domingo’s 1997 Sony disc Always in My Heart. Amato also arranged and conducted the traditional Vasilon. The disc’s finale is Daniel Powers’s propulsive Irresistible Force, which is a tour de force for brass. It brings this interesting disc to a fitting close.
The sound is clear and lifelike and the balances are excellent with the exception of the two Lecuona pieces. Most of these works and their composers are not well known, and are most deserving of being heard on this excellent Bloomington Symphony compact disc.