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American Classics - Lentini: Orchestra Hall Suite, Scenes From Sedona, Montage, East Coast Groove

Lentini / Ganson / Applegate / Chanteaux / Davis
Release Date: 07/27/2010 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559626   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  James Lentini
Performer:  Marcy ChanteauxJames VanvalkenburgPaul GansonGeoffrey Applegate,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LENTINI Orchestra Hall Suite. 1 El Signo del Angel 2. 5 Pieces for Cello and Piano 3. East Coast Groove. 4 Scenes from Sedona. 5 Montage 6 1 Paul Ganson (bn); 1 Geoffrey Applegate, Read more 6 Harvey Thurmer (vn); 1 James Van Valkenburg, 2 Mary E.M. Harris, 5 Cynthia Fogg (va); 1 Marcy Chanteaux, 3,6 Pansy Chang, 5 Tom Flaherty (vc); 2 Jacquelyn Davis (hp); 3,6 Siok Lian Tan, 4 Robert Conway (pn); 4 Velvet Brown (tb) NAXOS 8.559626 (57:47)

James Lentini’s music is new to me, but I’m exceedingly grateful to be introduced to his absorbing works through a fine new recording of his chamber music on Naxos. In short, there isn’t a single weak movement on the disc, and the six works are performed with precision and dedication by a superb group of instrumentalists, many of whom are members of the Detroit Symphony or colleagues of Lentini at Miami University in Ohio.

Concert halls are not often inspirations for compositions, but if any fit the bill, surely a prime candidate would be Detroit’s sumptuous Orchestra Hall. Lentini’s Orchestra Hall Suite as well as Scenes from Sedona were recorded in that hall, and what a fine impression the venerable space makes on this recording! The sound is just a bit warm, but very clear, precise, and finely balanced. The suite for four players is balanced toward the lower registers, and the influences seem varied but usually not obvious, except for a second movement in swing rhythms that honors the presence of jazz legends who performed in the hall in the 1940s. Elsewhere there are hints of the elegant craftsmanship of Bartók in movements that are succinct and tightly honed. Scenes from Sedona for viola and cello consists of a group of miniatures drawn from five monuments from that Arizona town. The full range of the two strings is artfully exploited, from artificial harmonics down to double-stops in the low register.

His fondness for short movements also appears in the Five Pieces for Cello and Piano, but the keyboard here seems to inspire more rhapsodic and lyric flights of fancy than in the other pieces. At times brief movements can lend music a disjointed character, but the composer avoids that here by tying earlier melodic ideas together in the finale. Lentini probably had no direct models for his harp and viola duo, El Signo del Angel , but he handles the medium well and makes the combination sound natural. At times the dusky sound of the viola meshes perfectly with thick chords in the medium and low register of the harp, while at other times he seems to be highlighting the natural timbral contrasts. As in all his works for strings, he finds creative and idiomatic ways of weaving thick textures from the bowed instruments.

East Coast Groove for tuba and piano again finds the composer incorporating jazz elements. Velvet Brown conjures a vivid virtuosity from her instrument that will no doubt surprise listeners unaware of its considerable potential. Lentini shows that he’s more than capable of writing for standard instrumental ensembles with his Montage for piano trio. The three players easily vanquish all of the considerable technical challenges. This is a first-rate disc, with performances of the highest rank.

FANFARE: Michael Cameron
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Works on This Recording

Orchestra Hall Suite by James Lentini
Performer:  Marcy Chanteaux (Cello), James Vanvalkenburg (Viola), Paul Ganson (Bassoon),
Geoffrey Applegate (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994 
El Signo del Angel by James Lentini
Performer:  Jacquelyn Davis (Harp)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2004 
Pieces (5) for Cello and Piano by James Lentini
Performer:  Pansy Chang (Cello), Siok Lian Tan (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987 
East Coast Groove by James Lentini
Performer:  Velvet Brown (Tuba), Robert Conway (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2003 
Scenes from Sedona by James Lentini
Performer:  Cynthia Fogg (Viola), Tom Flaherty (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996 
Montage by James Lentini
Performer:  Siok Lian Tan (Piano), Pansy Chang (Cello), Harvey Thurmer (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992 

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