Classical CD Reviews

ANTHONY PICCOLO: “Imaginary Symphony & other tales” – Imaginary Symphony No.1; Sonata for Cello Solo; Fever Time; Flûtes de suite; Fanfare-Sonatina for 4 horns – Moravian Philharmonic Orch./Campanella Children’s Ch./Petr Vronsky/Hamelin Children’s Ch./Anthony Piccolo, cond./various soloists – Navona

Some very imaginative music sure to entertain!

Published on May 24, 2013

ANTHONY PICCOLO: “Imaginary Symphony & other tales” – Imaginary Symphony No. 1; Sonata for Cello Solo; Fever Time; Flûtes de suite; Fanfare-Sonatina for 4 horns – Moravian Philharmonic Orch./Campanella Children’s Chorus/Petr Vronsky /Hamelin Children’s Chorus/ Anthony Piccolo, cond./ various soloists – Navona Records NV5904 (Distr. by Naxos), 54: 49 ****:

Anthony Piccolo is a new name for me but one I should have known and am now quite glad to have discovered!  Mr. Piccolo is a multi-talented composer, conductor and pianist whose primary responsibility is the director and trainer of the Children’s Chorus for the Metropolitan Opera. Therefore it only seems natural that the two “signature” works on this disc – and those that provide the most enjoyment – are the Imaginary Symphony No.1 and Fever Time.

The Imaginary Symphony is an absolutely charming work for children’s chorus and orchestra after poetry by American writers John Clare and Peter Wilson. The three movements bear the just as charming titles “Lady Bug’s Rain Song”, “Explore” and “Dream”. In the fairly small lexicon of works for children’s chorus, exclusively, this is a welcome addition. Piccolo’s language is tonal, with attractive orchestrations and his writing for young voices is outstanding. The vocal ranges are appropriately small, open and take full advantage of the simple beauty; the “cuteness” that a children’s chorus can provide. I loved this piece!

Fever Time is another wonderfully captivating work for a pared-down children’s vocal ensemble, celesta and percussion to texts by Susan Kander. The work was written for the New York City Opera Children’s Chorus and the texts are absolutely charming (again….) with topics like “Cat”, “Bug” and “Tea Kettle”.  This beautiful little work exists in seven short movements (more like vignettes). The vocal writing is again the star of this show and I find great enjoyment in hearing this piece in repeated fashion!

The three remaining works in this amazing collection illustrate Piccolo’s prowess as a composer of instrumental works. The Sonata for Solo Cello is a very dramatic and attractive three-movement work performed quite convincingly here by Petr Nouzovsky. I especially enjoyed the closing “Malinconico.”

Flûtes de suite for “multi-flute soloist” is just what it sounds like. This is a four movement work for a solo flutist playing each movement on a different member of the flute family (flute, alto flute, piccolo and bass flute). The work is picturesque and bears some imagery laden subtitles, such as “Railride at Dusk” (alto) and

“…sleep: perchance…” (bass flute). I am aware personally of how difficult it is to play such extremes as piccolo and bass flute well (especially within the same work) and soloist Marta Talábová does this quite well!

Lastly the Fanfare-Sonatina for 4 horns makes a nice addition to the French horn quartet repertoire. The fanfare-like opening gives way to a nice propulsive “Volando” and closes with a lovely sarabande-like “Andante conmoto”. A rather short work (just under five and a half minutes) this is perfect for horn players.

Anthony Piccolo is clearly a very talented person. For me, the music exists in the two realms I described. The Imaginary Symphony No.1 and Fever Time are impressive, moving and adorable all at once and I recommend these pieces enthusiastically!   The instrumental works are nice enough, to be sure; especially the flute piece, but I am not sure that these on their own would get my attention nearly as much as Mr. Piccolo’s works for children’s voices.  I have heard good things about his other vocal writing, such as his The Clay Birds (1988). I am a fan right there with his choral writing – particularly the works for children’s voices. Mr. Piccolo, please keep more of that coming!

—Daniel Coombs

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