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The Music Of Paul Bowles / Jonathan Sheffer, Eos Orchestra


Release Date: 05/02/2000 
Label:  Rca   Catalog #: 63685   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Paul Bowles
Conductor:  Jonathan Sheffer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eos Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

A delectable program. If you want to know what Bowles was all about, this CD is the one to have.

This delectable program was originally issued by BMG back in 1996 to commemorate the 1995 visit to New York of expatriate Paul Bowles (1910-99) to New York after several decades of self-chosen exile in Morocco. It is now being rereleased, and apparently it was never reviewed in Fanfare, although a couple of other overlapping Bowles collections (on the Koch and Largo labels) were covered quite favorably in these pages at that time.

Of these three, this is the most orchestrally plentiful and probably the most authentic, because Jonathan Sheffer, founder and conductor of The Eos Orchestra of New York, has long
Read more been associated with Bowles's music and was the guiding light behind the week-long celebration of the composer that took place back in September 1995. In fact, several of the works on this disc were recorded shortly after being performed in Alice Tully Hall.

It is customary to contrast the relatively lighthearted character of Bowles's compositions (most of them written before he devoted all of his attentions to literature) with the rather grim and stark existentialism of his exotic culture-clash novels and short stories, for which he is more universally acclaimed. All this writer is prepared to observe on the matter is the likelihood that his music may have been unfairly underrated to the extent that his fiction has been overrated; in any case, suffice it to underline that listening to the music is a lot more fun than reading the books!

The Suite for Small Orchestra of 1932-33 is the earliest orchestral work of Bowles to be recorded, and its three brief movements (Pastorale, Havanaise, and Divertimento) are all that is left of a projected "symphony." Although the idiom is a bit more dissonant and jagged than the theater-based music he wrote in the 40s (Bowles made a reputation for his incidental scores and ballets), its understated amiability—and populist overtones—are typical of the kind of spare and deliberately unpretentious manner and deadpan humor he cultivated in later years. Although the example of Virgil Thomson is germane here, the actual music sounds like a panoptic fusion of folk idioms stretching from Mexico to Spain, with divagations to New York and Tangiers. Perhaps a blend of Milhaud's Saudades do Brasil and Copland's El salón Mexico with a Jean Françaix-like personality best situates its stylistic profile.

Pastorela is drawn from a 1947 ballet with a Hispanic setting similar to the "zarzuela" mini-opera The Wind Remains after Lorca (once available on an MGM LP but here heard in a new version prepared especially by Sheffer). This relatively ambitious work—which comprises a quick succession of songs, instrumental interludes, and underscoring—is somewhat more low-key when compared to Bowles's masterpiece, the utterly nonpareil Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra of 1946—47. This irrepressibly jaunty, jaundiced, yet at times delicately sentimental four-movement quarter-hour montage features the most wonderfully wacky juxtapositions and discontinuities while brilliantly exploiting the sonorities of a percussion-heavy chamber orchestra. The best way to describe its spirit is as a kind of "concerto-in-drag." This careful but carefree performance brings out more felicitous details than the helter-skelter premiere recording by the work's commissioners and dedicatees—Gold and Fizdale—on an ancient 10-inch Columbia LP (which should be reissued along with their several other Columbia recordings of two-piano works). The program closes with a set of six elusive but evocative songs to poems by Bowles, his wife, the novelist and playwright Jane Bowles, and a single mock-valentine by Gertrude Stein. These highly melodic and occasionally bluesy settings reveal a tenderly lyrical aspect of Bowles that compares favorably with Barber's great Hermit Songs and indicate that he would have been capable of writing a musical comedy in the popular American vein. They bring a comprehensive musical portrait to a perfect finish.

Excellent and dedicated performances and a top-drawer annotation by K. Robert Schwarz, plus full texts. If you want to know what Bowles was all about, this CD is the one to buy.

-- Paul A. Snook, FANFARE [9/2000]
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Works on This Recording

1. Pastorela: Suite by Paul Bowles
Conductor:  Jonathan Sheffer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eos Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; USA 
2. Suite for Small Orchestra by Paul Bowles
Conductor:  Jonathan Sheffer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eos Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932-1933; USA 
3. Concerto for 2 Pianos, Winds and Percussion/Orchestra by Paul Bowles
Conductor:  Jonathan Sheffer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eos Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; USA 
4. The Wind Remains: Excerpt(s) by Paul Bowles
Conductor:  Jonathan Sheffer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eos Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941-1943; USA 
5. Secret Words by Paul Bowles
Conductor:  Jonathan Sheffer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eos Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
Notes: Orchestrated: Jonathan Sheffer 

Sound Samples

La Lucha
Caminata
El Indio
Pieza Tranquila
Danza General
Pastorale
Havanaise
Divertissement
Allegro
Scherzo
Andante
Galop
Overture
Setting the Stage
El Sueño
Entrance of the Girl
¿Quien lo dice?
Clown Dance
The Mask & the Stenographer
¿Dónde vas?
Te he de Ilevar
Te he de Ilevar
Dónde vas?
Servant's Dance
Si, mi hijo
Una musica de años
Una musica de años
Once a Lady Was Here
In the Woods
April Fool Baby
Farther from the Heart
My Sister's Hand in Mine
Secret Words

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