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Sejong Plays Ewazen: Violin Concerto, Etc / Hyo Kang, Et Al

Release Date: 04/29/2003 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 577   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Eric Ewazen
Performer:  Adele AnthonyLinda Strommen
Conductor:  Hyo Kang
Orchestra/Ensemble:  International Sejong Soloists
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The International Sejong Soloists is a string orchestra, formed in New York City in 1995, led by Tasmanian-born violinist Adele Anthony. They perform without a conductor under the artistic direction of Hyo Kang and have toured and concertized extensively. Their ?International? tag is reflected in the varied nationalities of the orchestra members: Australian, Canadian, Chinese, German, Israeli, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, and American. Many are products of Juilliard, where composer Eric Ewazen has taught since 1980. They play not only with heart but also with the same unanimity of mind that characterizes the Orpheus Chamber Read more Orchestra. The precision of their attack is a joy to hear in this stunningly recorded program.

Ewazen?s violin concerto was premiered in 2000 by the St. Luke?s Chamber Ensemble?he was composer-in-residence there at the time?and the work for oboe and strings, ?Down a River of Time,? comes from 1999, but both these and the Sinfonia could easily have been written 60 years earlier. Ewazen?s language is traditional and conservative. These are the strings of Bliss (but without Bliss?s acidic edge), Frank Bridge, even Elgar. In the Oboe Concerto, we?re in the same ballpark as Roy Harris: just sample the open, easy-going Americana of the third movement. So is that a plus or a minus? It really depends on what you are looking for. Nowadays many composers have reclaimed traditional form and tonality?which concert audiences never abandoned?but they manage to use these elements in a new and individual way. (A good example is Leonardo Balada.) To be truthful, Ewazen is not one of them. His is plain, old-fashioned music, pure and simple. I guess the important question is not which isms are used or not used but whether the composer has something personal to say. It seems to me Ewazen does have something to say, and with the help of this talented band, it is said with bracing energy and clarity.

The violin concerto sets off at a cracking pace in a movement described by the composer in his CD notes as ?rhapsodic,? although that might imply a tendency to ramble, which is definitely not the case here. Some of the figuration, and the contrapuntal uses to which it is put, could be described as neo-Classical. The style is akin to Roussel in its forward-moving momentum (a quality contemporary music conspicuously lacked for decades). Anthony throws herself into the solo part with panache, caressing the soaring solo lines of the second movement?s variations with a sure touch.

? Down a River of Time? was written in memory of the composer?s father who died at Christmas 1997, and commissioned by the present soloist in honor of her own late father, so there is a good deal of personal feeling invested in the piece. The second movement (Ewazen is very much a three-movement man) allows us to drift through a series of memories, as one might drift down a ?river of time,? recalling and savoring various moments in nostalgic reflection. Oboe and string orchestra are the perfect vehicles for this. It is a particularly lovely movement and, while episodic, it never falls into all-purpose mood painting; at each point, the composer retains a sharp focus. The outer movements are more sprightly but still exhibit the memorial flavor in which the work was conceived. Linda Strommen plays with skill and feeling, producing a beguiling tone.

With the Sinfonia, the shortest work here, we are back to bustling, good-humored neo-Classicism. The third movement is a frisky, folksy dance?it could well be one of Bridge?s string arrangements of folk songs?and this is the only time I craved some sense that the composer was at least aware of what had been happening in music during the last century. (Bridge himself moved on, after all.) Nevertheless, on its own terms this is a most enjoyable disc, well recorded, very well played, and as I said before, it has heart.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin by Eric Ewazen
Performer:  Adele Anthony (Violin)
Conductor:  Hyo Kang
Orchestra/Ensemble:  International Sejong Soloists
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 2000; USA 
Concerto for Oboe "Down a River of Time" by Eric Ewazen
Performer:  Linda Strommen (Oboe)
Conductor:  Hyo Kang
Orchestra/Ensemble:  International Sejong Soloists
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1999; USA 
Sinfonia for Strings by Eric Ewazen
Conductor:  Hyo Kang
Orchestra/Ensemble:  International Sejong Soloists
Period: 20th Century 

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