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Orchestral Equilibrium / Williams, Fojticek, Dvorak Symphony Orchestra

Dvorak Sym Orchestra / Williams / Fojticek
Release Date: 05/15/2012 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3180   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Lee McQuillanArmand Qualliotine
Performer:  Roman Fojticek
Conductor:  Julius P. Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dvorak Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

McQUILLAN Alto Saxophone Concerto 1. Equilibrium. QUALLIOTINE Lamentations. Where the Forest Ends Julius Williams, cond; 1 Roman Fojticek (asax); Dvo?ák SO CENTAUR 3180 (61:43)

This CD, which bears the title Orchestral Equilibrium, presents works that play as much Read more if not more with texture in an ambient sort of way than music that grabs you or impresses you emotionally. This is not to say that the pieces are uninteresting, not at all; only to describe a type of music that seems as ethereal and ephemeral as trying to grab a handful of fog. All four pieces are premiere recordings.

Both composers are around my age, one born in 1950 (McQuillan) and the other in 1954 (Qualliotine). I was particularly surprised by their composition teachers: McQuillan studied with Arnoldo Franchetti, himself a pupil of Richard Strauss, while Qualliotine studied with Pierre Boulez and Milton Babbitt. The reason for my surprise is that neither of them resembles his influences. McQuillan’s music, albeit tonal to a point, is much more abstract in both feeling and substance than anything Strauss ever wrote, while Qualliotine’s pieces, though bearing some atonal harmonies and being what I call “floating” music, is nowhere near as abrasive or as abstract as the music of Boulez or Babbitt.

So in a sense, it’s not only a good thing that they found their own way but that they used the materials they were given to construct pieces that use the principles but not identical building blocks. I also find it interesting to read the composers’ descriptions of their music, particularly that of Qualliotine, because although his own descriptions of his pieces fit what one hears, the Lamentation sounds much more to me like his description of Where the Forest Ends , which he says was taken from the last line of a Daoist text and related to a Japanese Zen koan. The reason I say this is that Lamentation puts me into an almost trancelike state that comes close to deep meditation, while Where the Forest Ends, with its darker harmonies and frequent loud orchestral outbursts, is more obtrusive on one’s mood and less conducive to meditation. But that is merely a personal subjective reaction to mood. Insofar as the music itself goes, it is fascinating, sparse of texture as well as consistently quiet in the first piece, more worldly or “conscious” of one’s physical surroundings, and therefore less able to zone out in the second.

The floating, neoclassical beauty of McQuillan’s alto sax concerto, played with great technical control and lack of passion by Roman Fojticek, gives way in Equilibrium to a generally quiet mood with sinister undercurrents, much like Where the Forest Ends. In fact, the very short pause between these two works initially confused me. At first, McQuillan’s piece sounded like a continuation of Qualliotine’s. Then I recognized McQuillan’s slightly more melodic style, and was able to discern the tremendous hard work that went into creating a piece of such delicately balanced moods. McQuillan describes Equilibrium as a piece influenced by the collapse of our economic system and the frenzied 2008 elections, as well as several friends and family members who died that year. He originally wanted to simply write a piece with a dark first movement, a frenzied second, and a serene finale, which he did, but as composition progressed he realized how closely these movements mirrored his own moods.

Julius Williams’s conducting in these pieces is excellent, reflecting a full understanding of the influences and alternating moods of each one. I am also delighted by the sonics here, which are clear and do not obscure orchestral details while still providing a certain amount of ambience when the sound textures demand it. This is a fascinating disc, and one that I can heartily recommend as a captivating glimpse into the work of two very individual composers.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra by Lee McQuillan
Performer:  Roman Fojticek (Saxophone)
Conductor:  Julius P. Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dvorak Symphony Orchestra
Lamentations by Armand Qualliotine
Conductor:  Julius P. Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dvorak Symphony Orchestra
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Where the Forest Ends by Armand Qualliotine
Conductor:  Julius P. Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dvorak Symphony Orchestra
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Equilibrium by Lee McQuillan
Conductor:  Julius P. Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dvorak Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

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