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Ticheli, Van Der Slice, Sleeper: Orchestral Works

Release Date: 07/29/2003 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 590   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Frank TicheliThomas M. SleeperJohn Vanderslice
Performer:  Stefan JezierskiJonathan Mack
Conductor:  Thomas M. Sleeper
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Miami Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is an unusual disc, with three works of very different musical styles. I suppose one might say that it offers a panoramic view of late 20th-century musical vocabularies, or one might wonder why such disparate works have been put together. One answer to that question is that all are performed by the University of Miami Orchestra under its director Thomas Sleeper. Sleeper’s Horn Concerto is a rather light-hearted work, jaunty at times, quite tuneful and accessible to any music-lover, no matter how conservative. The introspective, lyrical slow movement is a nice quiet interlude between the perkier outer movements. The writing for French horn is idiomatic and virtuosic, and Berlin Philharmonic hornist Stefan de Leval Jerzierski plays it Read more brilliantly (not a surprise, since it was written for him). This is a lovely addition to the horn repertoire.

The next work on the disc, John Van der Slice’s Specters, is likely to come as a shock to the more conservative listener. The composer himself says, “The title, Specters, reflects two aspects of the work. First, it uses a ‘spectrum’ of 13 pitches, descending from small intervals to large, which provides the genetic material for harmonic and melodic organization. . . . Secondly, the work is a kind of abstract ballet of sound involving a mysterious play of ‘ghostly’ timbres and textures, occasionally disturbed by sudden, more violent, apparitions.” If that description makes it sound like a somewhat forbidding work without a genuine tonal center, it is precisely that. The musical language is as foreign to Sleeper’s Horn Concerto as Venutian would be to English. I gave it a strong try, but after four hearings I still found my mind wandering through its 21-minute length; it seems all about shifting colors, and perhaps it is my own fault that I couldn’t hang on to any musical substance.

Frank Ticheli’s Symphony No. 1 inhabits a world somewhat in between the other two pieces. Neither as easily accessible and even “catchy” as Sleeper’s concerto nor as forbidding and abstract as Specters, this work strongly repays repeated hearings. While definitely music of our time (it was written in 2000), it is music connected deeply to the symphonic tradition of the past, and music of great emotional impact. Ticheli calls the work a “kind of journey of the soul—from innocence, to introspection, to darkness, and finally to enlightenment.” The finale incorporates a solo tenor, who sings a poem written by the composer (Albany helpfully prints the text)—a prayer of peace and hope. I find this score very persuasive and engaging—music that at moments recalls earlier composers like Britten or Barber, but is no mere copy.

All of the performances are persuasive and well played, and well recorded. Mr. Sleeper has clearly built a good orchestral program at the University of Miami. Albany provides useful notes.

Henry Fogel, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 1 by Frank Ticheli
Conductor:  Thomas M. Sleeper
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Miami Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001; USA 
Concerto for Horn by Thomas M. Sleeper
Performer:  Stefan Jezierski (French Horn)
Conductor:  Thomas M. Sleeper
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Miami Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2000; USA 
Specters by John Vanderslice
Performer:  Jonathan Mack (Tenor)
Conductor:  Thomas M. Sleeper
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Miami Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

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