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Adam Guettel: Floyd Collins

Release Date: 03/18/1997 
Label:  Nonesuch   Catalog #: 79434   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Adam Guettel
Performer:  Scott KuneyCarlo PellettieriTom ParkintonCorrin Huddleston,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Echoes of Ravel and Bartók mingle with the unquenchable spirit of country music. Hear Floyd Collins a few times to get under its skin. You can be sure it will get under yours.

You may remember the 1951 Billy Wilder movie with two titles: Ace in the Hole or The Big Carnival, depending on where you saw it. Based on the true story (c1925) of Floyd Collins, a Kentucky cave explorer who became trapped in pursuit of his dream and never made it back to the light, Wilder focused on the media circus which sprang up around the futile attempts to rescue him. He focused on Kirk Douglas, the hungry reporter who saw the story as his ticket to the big time, on the exploitation - good morning America, pull up a chair, real life
Read more drama right here in your living room - on our eternal shame, our insatiable appetite for the misfortunes of others. And rightly, he was cynical as hell about it.

But this was Collins's story. His dreams, his ambitions, his quest. And that's where Adam Guettel (composer and lyricist) and Tina Landau (book) came in. This remarkable little show - which briefly conquered and closed at Playwrights Horizons, W 42nd Street, New York City, in the spring of 1996 - turns "the carnival" in on itself. Guettel and Landau are with Collins, inside his head, tapped into his soul. They are with all the little big people who never quite made it to the bounty: the American Dream. Floyd was just one of them. Anonymous until they chronicled his death. Some dream.

So "The ballad of Floyd Collins" begins, the balladeer's guitar picking its way through the remnants of a tale often told, with Floyd, family and friends stepping out of the sepia photos to tell it like it was. This ballad is a familiar, homely kind of tune, a country tune. A regular tune for a regular guy. But suddenly we're alone with Floyd, and he's answering the call, the call of the wild, the call that dreams are made of.....God showed her to me first", he cries, in an ecstatic phrase which just for a moment scents "the glory" that awaits him in the mystical caverns of Sand Cave, his cave, the finest in all the region. The cave answers him back, and Guettel's music begins to soar. A kind of country yodel spinning off in melismatic shards, the echoes making a haunting counterpoint: "The sound of voices all around/That's the sound of Glory after all". And it is, it really is.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Guettel's beautiful score is the way in which it honours its ethnic source whilst taking it places it has never been before. There's so much heart in the aches and sobs and high-flying vocalise of country fare. Guettel recognizes that. "Lucky", the hicky little duet for Nellie and Jane, Floyd's younger sister and stepmother, is cute and quirky but loveable because it's honest. It's not a parody, or a pastiche, it's not patronising it's real. Similarly, "Heart an' hand" which digs deeper into the hearts and minds of Floyd's parents to Find strength in their own private lullabies. Then there's the special kinship between Floyd and his brother Homer. "The riddle song" is a wonderfully exhilarating invocation of childhood euphoria, using modulation and metre-shifting to effect flashback and instant recall. "Daybreak" takes us - or rather Floyd and Homer - somewhere else: to the stars and back.

On the outside looking in, but seeing nothing, are all those who make up "The carnival". The press pack descend with "Isn't that remarkable?", a smart, swingtime routine (1920s close-harmony) in which every crumb of misinformation is a potential scoop. And before you know it, Guettel is underscoring the whole ugly scene with music whose jaunty acerbity calls to mind Stravinsky's Soldiers Tale on a wild collision course with Floyd's ever more desperate scat-song. But suddenly there is no echo, and Floyd, reunited briefly in his dreams with all his kith and kin, must let them go and prepare to meet his maker. He has a few questions, but only heaven knows "How glory goes" - "what each of us was meant to be. In the starlight, that is what we are. I can see so far."

This poignant final number means more each time you hear it, because Guettel sees so far. His music and lyrics have reach and substance that portend much. The orchestrations for this marvellously produced album are the work of Bruce Coughlin and thoroughly reflect the high level of sophistication at work just beneath the surface of Guettel's intricate score. A country fiddle acquires a quartet, echoes of Ravel and Bartók mingle with harmonica, banjo and guitar, the unquenchable spirit of country music. Hear it a few times to get under its skin. You can be sure it will get under yours, Floyd Collins should have a future as surely as it has a past. Adam Guettel certainly does. He is, by the way, Richard Rodgers's grandson.

-- Gramophone [7/1997]
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Works on This Recording

Floyd Collins by Adam Guettel
Performer:  Scott Kuney (Guitar), Carlo Pellettieri (Cello), Tom Parkinton (Percussion),
Corrin Huddleston (Harmonica), Peter Donovan (Double Bass), Kevin Kuhn (Guitar),
Steve Marzullo (Piano), Matthew Bennett (Voice), Stephen Lee Anderson (Voice),
Michael Mulheren (Voice), Christopher Innvar (Voice), Cass Morgan (Voice),
Theresa McCarthy (Voice), Jason Lenat (Voice), Jason Danieley (Tenor),
Don Chastain (Voice), Rudy Roberson (Voice), Brian d'Arcy James (Voice),
Martin Moran (Voice), James Bohanek (Voice), Steve Marzullo (Keyboards),
Michael Nicholas (Violin), David Creswell (Viola), Mark Sherman (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 03/1996 
Venue:  The Hit Factory, New York, NY 

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