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Enchanted Tracings - Music Of Carson Cooman

Release Date: 03/31/2009 
Label:  Artek   Catalog #: 47   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Carson P. Cooman
Performer:  Robert KozanekIgor BielikPeter La GardeRatislav Suchan,   ... 
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

COOMAN Fanfare for DGF. 1 Trombone Concerto, “Remembering Tomorrow” 2 In What Time Remains. 3 Oboe Quartet. 4 Piano Concerto No. 2, “Enchanted Tracings.” 5 Beyond All Knowing. 6 Brass Quintet 7 Read more class="BULLET12b">• Kirk Trevor, cond; 1,2,5 Robert Kozánek (tbn); 2 Petr La Garde (tpt); 3,7 Ratislav Suchan (tpt); 3,7 Igor Bielik (hn); 3,7 Albert Hrubovcak (tbn); 3,7 Nikolaj Kanisak (tb); 3,7 Igor Fábera (ob); 4 Robert Marecek (vn); 4 Alexander Lakatos (va); 4 Ján Slávik (vc); 4 Nora Skuta (pn); 5 Slovak RSO 1,2,5 ARTEK 47 (66:12)

I’ve remarked in an earlier review ( Fanfare 31:3) that Carson Cooman seems to be a young man in a hurry. Born in 1982, he’s 27 as of this writing, and his age and output prompted me to do a little experiment. Since the most recent work on this collection (the Fanfare , from 2008) is labeled op. 762, and if we posit a reasonable hypothesis that the composer began composing in earnest around age 15, then he would have written one work every six days or so, many of them larger multimovement pieces. Besides this, he is a professional organist who specializes in new music, has a serious business as an arts consultant, and writes for this publication. One must assume he never sleeps, and that the pen is surgically attached to his hand. Yet I’ve met the composer, and he took time off for a leisurely dinner with me, with relaxed companionship and insightful conversation. So the secret of his prolificacy remains secure under his affable manner.

I’ve been a little arch at the start only because one has to confront Cooman’s remarkable scale of output in order to reach any critical judgment. One could easily dismiss him as the victim of some sort of “composer’s compulsion” disorder, except for the fact that the music is so much better than it should be, considering its breakneck speed of creation. All the pieces on this disc are confident in their presentation, expertly orchestrated, and above all, have rock-solid motivic ideas underpinning each that a listener immediately grasps, and can always refer to throughout. The composer remarked to me that one of his aims was to “reconcile the practices of Roy Harris and Charles Wuorinen.” I might have the pair wrong, but the gist of the memory is correct, especially since in his introduction to this disc Cooman remarks on his “intertwined interest in American neo-Romanticism and athletic modernism.” That desire to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable seems a noble goal to me, one I admire in its crazy ambition.

Since Cooman writes so much, I think it’s entirely appropriate to cull through any offerings and single out favorites. I can honestly say no piece in this group is substandard, and all project an authenticity in their expression. That said, I find certain works more compelling than others. Those that don’t move me as much tend to fall more on the mid-century Americanist pantonal-lyric portion of the spectrum (which tells you as much about my taste as Cooman’s work, I think). The two works for brass quintet, the Fanfare , and to a lesser degree the Concerto for Piano and Winds are in this category. The Concerto, however, is intriguing because in it I hear stronger echoes of particular earlier composers than in the other pieces: Stravinsky in his austere elegiac mode in the slow second movement, and Prokofiev raucously acting up in the third.

But then there are two pieces that stick with a vengeance. One is the tone poem for chamber orchestra, Beyond All Knowing (2003), an eight-minute essay that with its bare fourths and fifths, tolling bells, and chanting melody suggests a vast mystical landscape, and in which the composer’s love of early music is clearly evident.

The other is the 2007 Oboe Quartet. This piece starts with the most obviously “modernist” sound, a pointillistic sprinkling of string pizzicatos that gradually coalesces into the materials of the piece. At over 17 minutes, it’s the longest and most substantial piece of the program, and it revels in a tough-minded austerity that gives it real gravitas. While it initially develops into what seems to be conventional neo-Classical imitative counterpoint, that’s only a way station towards what becomes the ultimate goal. Eventually it reaches and never lets go of a rising minor second (half-step) motive, often repeating it obsessively, in ensemble unison, spinning off two-note variants, isolating it with framing silences. You feel you’ve really heard something when it’s done. I’ve noticed the oboe quartet making something of a comeback recently, with major works by Elliott Carter and Yehudi Wyner; Cooman’s seems a worthy addition to the genre and can share company with his elders without embarrassment.

All these performances (composer-supervised, I must assume) serve the music well. Cooman is blessed to have such a group of talented interpreters. The cover art doesn’t really reflect or serve well the character of this music, but that’s a minor quibble.

Who knows, this composer could be a Mozart in his early stages, and the really mature work hasn’t even emerged yet. And, of course, things could go in the opposite direction. But I’m willing to keep following Cooman on his path. Recommended in particular for the Oboe Quartet: this is a good introduction to the composer’s work, though it’s just one installment in an ongoing stream that shows no sign of letting up.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Fanfare for DGF, Op. 763 by Carson P. Cooman
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Written: 2008; USA 
Length: 0 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Concerto for Trombone, Op. 580 "Remembering Tomorrow" by Carson P. Cooman
Performer:  Robert Kozanek (Trombone)
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Written: 2004; USA 
Length: 10 Minutes 35 Secs. 
In what Time Remains, Op. 636 by Carson P. Cooman
Performer:  Igor Bielik (French Horn), Peter La Garde (Trumpet), Ratislav Suchan (Trumpet),
Nikolaj Kanisak (Tuba), Albert Hrubovcak (Trombone)
Written: 2005; USA 
Length: 5 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Quartet for Oboe and Strings, Op. 735 by Carson P. Cooman
Performer:  Alexander Lakatos (Viola), Igor Fábera (Oboe), Ján Slávik (Cello),
Robert Marecek (Violin)
Written: 2007; USA 
Length: 17 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Concerto for Piano no 2, Op. 762 "Enchanted Tracings" by Carson P. Cooman
Performer:  Nora Skuta (Piano)
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Written: 2008; USA 
Length: 15 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Beyond all Knowing, Op. 538 by Carson P. Cooman
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Written: 2003; USA 
Length: 8 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Quintet for Brass, Op. 719 by Carson P. Cooman
Performer:  Ratislav Suchan (Trumpet), Nikolaj Kanisak (Tuba), Albert Hrubovcak (Trombone),
Igor Bielik (French Horn), Peter La Garde (Trumpet)
Written: 2007; USA 
Length: 7 Minutes 36 Secs. 

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