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Perspectives - American Chamber & Orchestral Works


Release Date: 01/22/2008 
Label:  Mmc Recordings   Catalog #: 2162   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Roger DavidsonBurt FennerRuss LombardiDavid Gillingham,   ... 
Performer:  Ruth Ray KelleherRichard StoltzmanAnda Luisa BagzaIsabelle Ganz
Conductor:  Gerard SchwarzVit MickaVladimír VálekJerzy Swoboda,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic OrchestraMoravian Philharmonic OrchestraMoyzes String Quartet,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 20 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



PERSPECTIVES Gerard Schwarz, cond; 1 Vit Micka, cond; 3 Kirk Trevor, cond; 4 Vladimir Valek, cond; 7 Jerzy Swoboda, cond; 10 Vladimir Valek, cond; 12 Richard Stoltzman (cl); 2 Ruth Ray Kelleher (nar); Read more class="SUPER12">8 Anda Luisa Bagza (sop); 11 Isabel Ganz (sop); 13 Moyzes Str Qrt; 5 Duo Runedako; 6 Royal Liverpool PO; 14 Seattle SO; 9 Moravian PO. 3 Slovak RSO; 4 Czech RSO; 7 Warsaw Natl P; 10 Prague RSO 12 MMC 2162 (2 CDs: 140:56)


DAVIDSON English Suite. 1,14 RICHARDS Snake in the Garden. 2,4 Trip Hammer. 3 FENNER Neat Proportions. 3 LOMBARDI Glissening. 5 GILLINGHAM Interplay. 7 MASCARI Meet the Orchestra. 3,8 WALCZYK Capriccio. 1,9 PANN Rags to Riches. 2,10 WARSHAUER Yes! 2,10 MANDELBAUM The Village: Arias. 11,12 ERICKSON The Dancer in the Garden 1,13,9


Given its stylistic diversity and the quality of both the performances and the recordings thereof (made between 1994 and 2006), this is one of the most impressive MMC releases to come across my desk in a long while. It maintains a careful and synergistically gratifying balance between the cerebrally challenging, the easily accessible, and the many shades of gray in between.


I reviewed three of Roger Davidson’s (b. 1952) Missa Universalis settings in Fanfare 31:3 and found them deeply moving (MMC 2154). He is an eclectic composer who moves with ease among the worlds of symphonic and chamber music, jazz, and even tango. In his charming English Suite , composed in 2005, he shows yet another facet of his art by effectively invoking the worlds of Gustav Holst and Peter Warlock. The suite’s five movements constitute a set of dance-inspired variations that never wander very far from the original theme embedded in its first movement. The harmonic structure is conservative, resulting in the most user-friendly piece on this offering. This is indeed expertly crafted and enjoyable stuff.


Paul Richards (b. 1969) is the son of a New York Cantor who shows his Jewish roots in Snake in the Garden , a piece of loosely programmatic music chronicling Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The devil, in the form of the snake, is represented by the solo clarinet line—replete with klezmer inflections and ably projected by Richard Stoltzman. Jazz licks abound. Richards is, like Davidson, a purveyor of multiple styles, this time put to use in a single piece. He is a bold harmonist and a fine orchestrator. The title of his second piece, Trip Hammer is defined by the composer as “a feature of a medieval water wheel where simple cams on the driveshaft would trip a hammer, or series of hammers, for a wide variety of industrial uses, from production of clothing to weapons of war.” The hammer is heard in the very first bars and marks the beginning of a tightly reasoned eight-and-a-half-minute odyssey that effectively ranges from the most humanistically gentle impulses to the most inhumanly brutal.


Knowing that Burt Fenner can count Jack Beeson and Otto Luening among his teachers and that he has served for 24 years as professor of composition, theory, and electronic music at the Pennsylvania State University School of Music provides insights into his music. The only other work by Burt Fenner with which I am familiar is a splendid piece for clarinet and orchestra called Arundo Donax (the botanical name for a cane that grows in Southern France from which clarinet reeds are made) found on MMC 2031. Fenner’s language there is based more upon harmonic progression and the movement of isolated lines within that progression than the traditional melody supported by a harmonic substrate paradigm. Neat Proportions is a further manifestation of this kind of structure and thought. In it he posits a basic idea and then proceeds to serialize its proportions—touching upon its tempo, rhythm, melody, harmony, and form. Given the above, this would seem an unduly cerebral approach to the creation of music. Bear in mind that the boy Mozart claimed to have concocted a formula whereby he could grind out minuets, and that if one examines the often deeply moving a cappella choral works of Brahms, one finds oneself deeply entangled in a panoply of arcane contrapuntal devices. The paradox is that both of those composers communicate enormous emotional impact. In his finely crafted Neat Proportions , Burt Fenner successfully makes that same paradox work thrillingly.


Russ Lombardi is currently professor of music at the University of Maine at Augusta. His Glissening for string quartet is very much in the Second Viennese School tradition. It is, given the notes of the composer, a narrative piece. He suggests picturing oneself calmly sitting in an Adirondack chair at a lake’s edge in Maine. The scene is picturesquely tranquil. Little by little you come to realize that you are witnessing a relentless natural war zone—fish pursuing frogs, dragonflies devouring mosquitoes—what biologists call the natural function of the food chain. To quote the composer outright, “you realize that the only serenity in this place is an illusion in your own mind . . . And you think, perhaps all your thoughts are illusions.” Given this, the piece also works quite well as absolute music, and it receives a fine performance by the Moyzes String Quartet of Bratislava.


David Gillingham’s Interplay for piano four hands and orchestra is one of the more user-friendly pieces in this collection. Flashy, virtuosic, and jazzy in language, it shows Gillingham to be a resourceful orchestrator whose music flows effortlessly from one mood to the next. To characterize it in one word—exuberant. The performance by the Duo Runedako and the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra under Vladimir Valek is clearly up to all this music’s challenges.


Edward P. Mascari’s Meet the Orchestra serves the same function as Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra . Its refreshingly-free-of-cliché text is drawn from a book of the same name by Ann Hayes, and is narrated most warmly by Ruth Ray Kelleher. For his point of musical departure, Mascari uses the March from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker , a piece particularly beloved by his grandson. The four choirs of the orchestra are introduced à la Britten, but then Mascari introduces the instruments individually via nine variations starting with the double basses and moving upward. Like Britten’s, this is a variations piece in reverse, divulging the actual theme at the very end. Mascari is a deft and imaginative composer, and he is served well by his performing forces.


Like others on this release, Oregonian Kevin Walczyk moves freely between the world of jazz and symphonic music. His Capriccio , however, shows no jazz influence. Composed in 1994 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day, it is appropriately tragic and haunting. Based on a brief descending motive, it is alternately violent and poignantly luminous. Walczyk’s highly original musical syntax and his often revealing exploitation of orchestral color left me riveted throughout Capriccio ’s roughly 12-minute duration. Gerard Schwarz and his Seattle Symphony Orchestra provide fine advocacy.


Carter Pann was born in 1972 and can count among his teachers Samuel Adler, William Albright, Warren Benson, William Bolcom, David Liptak, Joseph Schwantner, and Bright Sheng—an impressive pedigree. His music is distinguished by a delightfully convincing (sometimes tongue in cheek), use of popular idioms in his symphonic music. As a young piano student he often played Scott Joplin rags, later performing them in public along with music of Chopin and Bach. Those rags are often miniature masterpieces, and their spirit effortlessly wends its way into the textures of Rags to Richard , composed for Richard Stoltzman in the winter of 1997–98. The results are infectious. This is “feel good” music of the highest caliber. I particularly like how Stoltzman imbues the opening phrase of the first of its two movements with klezmer inflections, which he then morphs seamlessly into the spirit of the rag. Yes! for clarinet and orchestra by Meira Warshauer (b. 1949) is similarly pop inspired—the result of attending a high energy Rolling Stones concert in 1995. Employing an impressive percussion battery, it freely fuses jazz and rock styles in a bracingly raucous way. Her list of teachers is, like Carter Pann’s, impressive, including Mario Davidovsky, Jacob Druckman, and William Thomas McKinley, all of whose music I admire. She is a composer of great stylistic range who has produced, at the other end of the spectrum, a good deal of Jewish liturgical music.


Joel Mandelbaum, currently professor of music emeritus at Queens College of the City University of New York, counts Bernhard Heiden, Walter Piston, Irving Fine, Harold Shapero, Luigi Dallopiccola, and Aaron Copland among his teachers. This release offers four arias from his opera, The Village (one of four he has composed), which chronicles aspects of life in a small Normandy village between autumn 1942, when the Nazis began their roundup of the Jews in Paris, and August of 1944, when Normandy was finally liberated. His musical language is post-Romantically tonal, often spare in texture, and rhetorically powerful. Soprano Anda Luisa Bagza ably projects the heartrending tragedy of this music, which is relieved only in the last aria—moments of tranquility that lead to an appropriately troubled and troubling resolution.


Elaine Erickson’s teachers include Francis Pyle, Richard Hervig, Jean Eichelber Ivey, and Robert Hall Lewis. The Dancer in the Garden , for dramatic soprano and string orchestra (based on her own texts), was composed in 1994 in memory of a dear friend. Her string-writing is minimalist, but of a minimalism that leads to maximum impact. Her language is tonal, exploiting almost Schoenbergian Sprechstimme against a background of strings playing often at the extremes of their registers in support of an often-disjunct vocal line. The result is a disturbingly aphoristic realization of grief.


This aptly named collection clearly shows the diversity to be found in so-called classical music. As opposed to the 1960s and 1970s, when composers were feuding over which “ism” is the only true one, this release clearly makes the case that there is room for all, and eloquently contends that the only good composer is not necessarily a dead one.


FANFARE: William Zagorski
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Works on This Recording

1.
English Suite for Strings by Roger Davidson
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2005; England 
2.
Neat Proportions by Burt Fenner
Conductor:  Vit Micka
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 
3.
Glissening by Russ Lombardi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moyzes String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
4.
Interplay by David Gillingham
Conductor:  Vladimír Válek
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Radio Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
5.
Meet the Orchestra by Edward Paul Mascari
Performer:  Ruth Ray Kelleher (Spoken Vocals)
Conductor:  Vit Micka
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
6.
Capriccio for Orchestra by Kevin Walczyk
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994 
7.
Rags to Richards by Carter Pann
Performer:  Richard Stoltzman (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Notes: Composition written: 1997 - 1998. 
8.
Yes! by Meira Warshauer
Performer:  Richard Stoltzman (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Jerzy Swoboda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; USA 
9.
The Village: Family love by Joel Mandelbaum
Performer:  Anda Luisa Bagza (Soprano)
Conductor:  Vladimír Válek
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
10.
The Village: Warsaw Ghetto uprising by Joel Mandelbaum
Performer:  Anda Luisa Bagza (Soprano)
Conductor:  Vladimír Válek
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
11.
The Village: Freedom in a world of murder by Joel Mandelbaum
Performer:  Anda Luisa Bagza (Soprano)
Conductor:  Vladimír Válek
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
12.
The Village: The cities will be ovens by Joel Mandelbaum
Performer:  Anda Luisa Bagza (Soprano)
Conductor:  Vladimír Válek
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
13.
The Dancer in the Garden by Elaine Erickson
Performer:  Isabelle Ganz (Soprano)
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994; USA 
14.
Snake in the Garden by Paul Richards
Performer:  Richard Stoltzman (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
15.
Trip Hammer by Paul Richards
Conductor:  Vit Micka
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

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