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Bodine: Kaleidoscope; Mckinley: Freedom Dreams; Rudenstein: Blues For New Orleans

Bodine / Mckinley / Rudenstein / Slovak Rso
Release Date: 12/08/2009 
Label:  Mmc Recordings   Catalog #: 2179  
Composer:  G. Bradley BodineWilliam Thomas McKinleyRoger Rudenstein
Performer:  Pedro CarneiroRichard StoltzmanGeorge Dykstra
Conductor:  Gerard SchwarzKirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony OrchestraSlovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BODINE Kaleidoscope. 1 McKINLEY Freedom Dreams. 2 RUDENSTEIN Blues for New Orleans 3 Gerard Schwarz, cond; 1 Kirk Trevor, cond; 2,3 Pedro Carneiro (mmb); 1 Richard Stoltzman (cl); Read more class="SUPER12">2,3 George Dykstra (pn); 3 Seattle S; 1 Slovak RSO 2,3 MMC 2179 (60:38)

This is a quite typical MMC compilation—a clutch of contemporary composers who are tonal in orientation, masters of their craft, and largely reflect the current mainstream view on “serious” concert music creation. That is to say that they are not wedded to any previously exclusive academic isms, but eclectically use them all as grist for their musical invention.

I know little of G. Bradley Bodine’s educational background other than what is presented in the liner notes, which merely reprint the uninformative blurb found on his Web site. He is currently composer in residence/music coordinator at The Catholic Center at Purdue and a continuing lecturer of music theory at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. I am therefore thrown upon only my two ears, as it should be, for my evaluation of his Kaleidoscope , a concerto for marimba and orchestra, composed in 2007. The 18-minute piece breaks down into three sections performed without breaks: an explosively energetic first one in which all of the thematic material is presented; a second disarmingly lyrical one that offers a moment of repose, utilizing material from the opening section in augmentation; and an energetic finale—with a solo cadenza near its end—that presents that same material in modified form. The structure reminds me of a standard Haydn sonata allegro and, like Haydn, Bodine pulls it off with an admirable resourcefulness. Along the way he presents illuminating insights into the possibilities of the marimba, and in how to integrate its timbres with those found in his intricately colorful orchestration—one that deploys the orchestral percussion as beyond a merely coloristic element.

William Thomas McKinley’s Freedom Dreams , composed in 2001, is typical of his work—colorful, exuberantly inventive, and expertly scored. To his credit, McKinley never fails to surprise. This piece for clarinet and orchestra presents three movements worth of variations on Amazing Grace . In the course of McKinley’s musical narrative, the hymn is alternately dissected, examined, and reassembled in a myriad of ways. The scoring is kaleidoscopically Ivesian, and the overall feel of the piece, given its mercurial progress through strongly contrasted moods, is that of a jazz improvisation somehow captured in score form. Both the writing for the clarinet and the orchestra demand (and receive here) virtuosic playing. The liner notes, however, give us no background as to this most intriguing work’s inspiration and genesis. Instead we find McKinley’s C.V., a blurb about the mission of MCC, and testimonials from Richard Stoltzman and Gerard Schwarz, two artists closely associated with the label. More’s the pity. On the subject of the booklet, given its ambivalent formatting, it is not clear that Richard Stoltzman is the soloist (though my ears tell me that he is).

In my review of Roger Rudenstein’s State of the Union in Fanfare 31:2, I soft pedaled the political thrust of the piece in favor of dwelling on Rudenstein’s musical structures, which I found to be quite sound. My underlying fear then was that the piece would be perceived as politically tendentious and therefore less musically viable than it is. In the interest of full disclosure, I will now admit that my own politics are somewhat to the left of Karl Marx. I must add, however, that I have many friends whose political leanings I find somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun. We have always been able, however, to engage each other in civil and civilized dialogue. In his 2008-composed concerto for clarinet and piano, Blues for New Orleans , Rudenstein takes on the indifferent inaction as New Orleans was destroyed before our eyes by hurricane Katrina—a city that, all these years later, has far from recovered. Its movements are titled: “175 Miles per Hour,” “Helluva Job Brownie,” and “Movin’ On.” The first, full of palpable foreboding, depicts the approaching storm. The second recalls President Bush’s statement directed to the head of FEMA, Michael D. Brown. The final movement is Rudenstein’s paean to the indomitable survival spirit of the people of New Orleans. Ending as it does with a veiled allusion to La marseillaise is Rudenstein’s way of saying that if America can’t protect the unique historical and cultural institution that is New Orleans, then it ought to give it back to its original founders. The orchestra’s role is that of giving voice to the physical reality of the catastrophe. The two soloists act as commentators inescapably enmeshed in the tragedy. This piece, even more than his State of the Union , demonstrates Rudenstein’s contrapuntal mastery, skill in instrumentation, and ability to sustain a long narrative line. The result is a poignantly tragic story with a hopeful ending.

Any single piece here is worth the price of admission. Performances, both soloistically and orchestrally, are up to the demands of the music with technique to spare, and the recording is crystal clear, colorful, and impactful.

FANFARE: William Zagorski
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Works on This Recording

Kaleidoscope by G. Bradley Bodine
Performer:  Pedro Carneiro (Marimba)
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2007 
Freedom Dreams by William Thomas McKinley
Performer:  Richard Stoltzman (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001 
Blues for New Orleans by Roger Rudenstein
Performer:  Richard Stoltzman (Clarinet), George Dykstra (Piano)
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2008 

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