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Turner: Karankawa / American Horn Quartet, Sinfonia Iuventus

Release Date: 10/13/2009 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1141   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachBenjamin BrittenJohn TavenerAndré Fleury,   ... 
Performer:  Kyle TurnerCharles Putnam
Conductor:  Dariusz Wisniewski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sinfonia IuventusAmerican Horn Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

TURNER Karankawa. Introduction and Main Event. 1 Tuba Concerto. 2 Low Horn Concerto 3 Dariusz Wisniewski, cond; American Hn Qrt; 1 Kyle Turner (tb); 2 Charles Putnam (hn); 3 Snf Iuventus ALBANY Read more class="ARIAL12U">TROY 1141 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 59:47)

Kerry Turner is a longtime member of the American Horn Quartet, and assistant principal horn of the Luxembourg Philharmonic, so as a composer, he knows his horn. He’s also a highly adept and vivid orchestral colorist, and his four “middle period” compositions on this disc are inventive, idiomatic, and instantly accessible to a wide audience.

Let’s begin with the one not entirely satisfactory element of this release, the liner notes. They allude to an interruption in Turner’s composing activities in the mid 1990s, described as “the most tragic and turbulent time of his life” without elaboration; it would be better either to drop the other shoe, or pass over his personal troubles in silence, rather than leave the reader hanging. There’s almost a full page with a detailed description of the disc’s first item, the tone poem Karankawa , but absolutely nothing about the other three works, even though space is found for a full listing of the personnel in Sinfonia Iuventus, a highly accomplished youth orchestra, if “youth” can be pretty much limited to fully trained musicians in their twenties (it seems to be something of a Polish counterpart to the New World Symphony).

Now, on to the positive elements, which would be everything else.

Karankawa is inspired by an incident in Turner’s native Texas, the 1685 shipwreck of French explorer Robert Cavalier La Salle and his crew and accompanying settlers and their eventual massacre at the hands of the local Karankawa tribe, onto whose land they had stumbled. The piece begins with recorded surf sounds, but this is really an orchestral rather than electro-acoustic work. Musical materials include a recurring, brief, whimsical, rather inane quasi-march derived from a French folk tune, and, later, rhythmic and melodic figures based on a Plains Indian dance. It’s all melodic, dramatic, and cinematic, similar to the style of David Del Tredici on his best behavior (but, about five minutes in, the tone poem erupts into material uncomfortably similar to Samuel Barber’s Medea’s Dance of Vengeance ).

Introduction and Main Event , for horn quartet and orchestra, is what might have happened if neo-Classicist Walter Piston had joined the Indianist movement, the “main event” based on heraldic fanfares and a broader, confident theme, all of it full of rhythmic, melodic, and timbral interest. The Tuba Concerto, featuring Turner’s brother Kyle as soloist, is darker, but still energized, with moments of whimsy (especially in its final movement). The Concerto for Low Horn and Chamber Orchestra benefits from heavy woodwind involvement, along with steady use of strings and percussion to support and offset the solo horn. Along the way, Turner quotes a traditional tune and alludes to medieval music, all the while showing a good command of orchestration.

The performances are outstanding, full of conviction, which these scores require if they’re going to come off effectively. Albany’s surround sonics are terrific; there are some rear-channel brass effects in the tone poem, but otherwise the back speakers are used only for hall ambience. In every way, this is a winning disc.

FANFARE: James Reel
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Works on This Recording

Karankawa by Kerry Turner
Conductor:  Dariusz Wisniewski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sinfonia Iuventus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; Luxembourg 
Introduction and Main Event by Kerry Turner
Conductor:  Dariusz Wisniewski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  American Horn Quartet,  Sinfonia Iuventus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992; Luxembourg 
Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra by Kerry Turner
Performer:  Kyle Turner (Tuba)
Conductor:  Dariusz Wisniewski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sinfonia Iuventus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999; Luxembourg 
Concerto for Low Horn and Chamber Orchestra by Kerry Turner
Performer:  Charles Putnam (French Horn)
Conductor:  Dariusz Wisniewski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sinfonia Iuventus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; Luxembourg 

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