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Music From Six Continents - 1996 Series - Sleeper, Et Al

Release Date: 12/16/2009 
Label:  Vienna Modern Masters   Catalog #: 3037   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Thomas M. SleeperMargaret Shelton MeierHaydn ReederLarry Bell
Performer:  Kathryn SleeperBozhena PetrovaLarry Bell
Conductor:  Thomas M. SleeperTsanko Delibozov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ruse Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Backorder: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

All the composers, but one, featured in this release are new to me. In fact, Larry Bell’s name may be somewhat more familiar since some of his music is available in commercial recordings (among others on VMM 3016 and on NORTH/SOUTH RECORDINGS).

Sleeper’s large-scale and ambitious Bassoon Concerto was written for Kathryn Sleeper (his sister?) and first performed by her in August 1993 in Beijing. It is in three substantial movements (Faust and Psyche, Eros and Psyche and Prometheus and Psyche) though we are not told to what extent the titles relate to the content (or the other way round?). The first movement is roughly in sonata form with an extended accompanied cadenza. The second movement, mostly song-like in character though
Read more with a more animated central section, is scored for harp and strings. A paraphrase of a song of Praetorius is woven into the music. Soloist and full orchestra join again in the virtuosic final movement ending "with a wild rush to octave C sharps". This is a fine work, though a bit too long for its material, and in any case a superb showpiece for a much neglected instrument. It is a most welcome addition to the limited contemporary repertoire of bassoon concertos and well worth hearing.

Larry Bell, who has also composed a bassoon concerto The Sentimental Muse Op.45 for Kathryn Sleeper, is the soloist in this performance of his substantial Piano Concerto Op.33 completed in 1989. It is in three movements of which the titles (Lyrical and Majectic, Blues Theme with Variations and Dancelike and Driving) give a fair description of the music. It is to be noted, however, that the "blues theme" is an original tune. The Finale is a brilliant, dance-like movement full of energy and bouncing rhythms. Those of you who may already have heard some of Bell’s works will know what to expect. As I already mentioned in earlier reviews, Bell’s music is some sort of updated Americana breathing the same air as Copland’s or Ives’ music. It is colourful, often warmly tuneful and rhythmically alert, direct and communicative. A fine work though his Sacred Symphonies Op.23 (on VMM 3016) is a much finer work and probably the best introduction to Bell’s endearing music.

Margaret Meier’s The Dawning has an almost concertante part for celesta (representing "the innocence and promise of young life"). The slowly burgeoning life depicted in the slow introduction reaches a first climax (birth). There ensues a slow, haunting melody (actually "a 12-note row and its inversion") unfolds reaching a playful section followed by a short set of variations leading to a full restatement of the main theme as a powerfully assertive coda. A beautiful, attractive work that repays repeated hearings.

Australian-born Haydn Reeder’s Lark 2 for saxophone and orchestra is actually the third version of a song originally part of the song cycle Songs of Love and Terror for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble. (Lark 1 is a setting for mezzo-soprano and orchestra whereas Lark 2 is a song-without-words for saxophone and orchestra.) The text of the original vocal setting is by the 12th Century French poet, Bernart de Ventadorn (some of this troubadour’s poems have also been set by John Buller in his wonderful Proença once available on UNICORN). I do not know the vocal settings and, therefore, have no idea of how the saxophone setting relates (or does not) to the song. Lark 2, however, though in a slightly more advanced idiom than any of the other pieces here, is nevertheless a quite attractive piece of music in its own right. I would now welcome an opportunity to hear either the song cycle or Lark 1 some day.

An interesting instalment in VMM’s ongoing series Music from Six Continents with two substantial, if somewhat uneven works and two shorter, attractive pieces, all in fine performances decently recorded.

-- Hubert Culot, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Bassoon by Thomas M. Sleeper
Performer:  Kathryn Sleeper (Bassoon)
Conductor:  Thomas M. Sleeper
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ruse Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992; USA 
The Dawning by Margaret Shelton Meier
Performer:  Bozhena Petrova (Celesta)
Conductor:  Tsanko Delibozov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ruse Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994; USA 
Lark 2 by Haydn Reeder
Conductor:  Tsanko Delibozov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ruse Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996; Australia 
Concerto for Piano, Op. 33 by Larry Bell
Performer:  Larry Bell (Piano)
Conductor:  Tsanko Delibozov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ruse Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989; USA 

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