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Colgrass Horizons: The Music Of Michael Colgrass

Colgrass / Bach / Lamb
Release Date: 03/11/2014 
Label:  Equilibrium   Catalog #: 118   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Michael Colgrass
Conductor:  Brian Lamb
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Central Oklahoma Wind SymphonyUniversity Of Central Oklahoma Chamber Collegium
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BACH Goldberg Variations. COLGRASS Zululand. Ghost River. Gotta Make Noise Brian Lamb, cond; University of Central Oklahoma C Collegium, UCO Wind S, UCO Chorale EQUILIBRIUM 118 (56:50)


The Goldberg Variations have benefited (or suffered, depending on your point of view) from almost countless transcriptions: for string orchestra, string quartet, string trio (by far the most popular in Read more Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s version), piano duo, guitar, guitar duo, accordion, harp, saxophone quartet, brass quintet, marimba, an ensemble of viols, and, just two years ago, for full orchestra by Jochen Neurath. Now we have Michael Colgrass’s setting for a mixed chamber ensemble consisting of violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, harp, and percussion. The musicians are faculty members at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) in Edmond (just north of Oklahoma City and truly about as “central” as you can get in this state).


Colgrass notes that he “was inspired by Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording,” and that “Gould’s touch on the keyboard suggests instruments to me. I hear a clarinet here, a viola there, now an alto flute, instrumental colors and textures I don’t usually hear when other pianists play Bach….And he was playful, which inspired my approach to some of the fast music. His pixie nature came out in the late night phone calls this reclusive man would make to my wife Ulla.” Colgrass, ever ready to transmute life experiences into art, seized upon the Gould phenomenon to create his Goldberg transcription as a 65th birthday gift for his wife. The first performance was given in the living room of the Colgrass residence in Toronto in 2003.


The result is a delight from start to finish. With 10 instrumental colors to play with, Colgrass has expertly fashioned a continuously varied palette in which each variation seems to spring naturally from the colors he has chosen for it. The theme is shared by flute and viola, accompanied by harp. The first variation goes to clarinet, bassoon, marimba, and violin. Muted trumpet and later horn are added to the second variation. In the fifth we get a sampling of Klangfarbenmelodie , in which each of several instruments contributes a few notes in succession to a continuously unfolding line. In the eighth marimba and harp get the melodic line to an accompaniment of pizzicato cello. In the 10th two pairs—marimba and harp, flute and clarinet—jostle for supremacy. And so it goes … never a dull moment.


The performance is acceptable. Some of the musicians seem to be just barely managing to cope with their parts, but they make up in spirit what they may lack in refinement. A vibrant, exceptionally clean recording acoustic adds to the pleasure of this effort.


Three of Colgrass’s own short compositions for wind ensemble are tacked on as fillers, all performed by the UCO Wind Symphony as part of the composer’s residency at that institution. Zululand (2010) was “inspired by watching films of ritual dances by Zulu tribes celebrating major events in their lives with dancing and singing.” This work complements the Goldberg Variations in that Colgrass has taken a refrain and repeated it in multifarious ways using different instrumental colors. Not surprisingly, there is a good deal of drumming here, as well as much whooping from the chorus. It all adds up to 10 minutes of rhythmically riotous fun, though surprisingly the work ends quietly.


Ghost River (also from 2010) splendidly achieves what the composer set out to do: “to create an atmosphere of a mysterious and timeless river in a forest, shrouded in mist, where we wonder if what we see and hear are really there.” Richly textured writing, aleatoric passages and a generally muted sound world bring to mind some of Ives’s works and result in a most satisfying seven-minute tone poem. The last minute or so recreates, with startling realism, the sound of a gentle rain. Takemitsu would have loved it.


And finally, Gotta Make Noise (2003) speaks for itself. It “is dedicated to that irrepressible energy and spirit in children, and in the adults who remember how much fun it was [to cut up in school].” Stravinskyian rhythms, energetic drumming, shouting, and more goes into this four-minute piece of musical merriment. You gotta hear it.


FANFARE: Robert Markow
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Works on This Recording

1.
Goldberg Variations by Michael Colgrass
Conductor:  Brian Lamb
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Central Oklahoma Wind Symphony,  University Of Central Oklahoma Chamber Collegium
2.
Zuzuland by Michael Colgrass
Conductor:  Brian Lamb
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Central Oklahoma Wind Symphony,  University Of Central Oklahoma Chamber Collegium
3.
Ghost River by Michael Colgrass
Conductor:  Brian Lamb
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Central Oklahoma Wind Symphony,  University Of Central Oklahoma Chamber Collegium
4.
Gotta Make Noise by Michael Colgrass
Conductor:  Brian Lamb
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Central Oklahoma Wind Symphony,  University Of Central Oklahoma Chamber Collegium

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Goldberg Variations is stunning! November 28, 2013 By Denise C. See All My Reviews "To say I was pleasantly surprised by the masterful playing on this CD would be an understatement. I was actually blown away. The Goldberg Variations setting is exceptional, and the interpretation is right on. A great buy for any music lover!" Report Abuse
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