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John A. CAROLLO: “The Transfiguration of Giovanni Baudino” – Moravia Philharmonic Orchestra/Petr Vronsky – Navona

John A.  CAROLLO: “The Transfiguration of Giovanni Baudino” = The Rhetoric and Mythos of Belief; The Transfiguration of Giovanni Baudino; Let Freedom Ring; Do You Have an E.R. for Music?; Symphony No. 2 (“The Circle of Fire”; Move Toward the Light (Your Destiny Awaits You) – Moravia Philharmonic Orchestra/Petr Vronsky – Navona Records NV6109 [Distr. by Naxos], (August 25, 2017), 77:21 **1/2:

A strange but attractive work…

Part of the press materials for this new work by John A. Carollo state that “’The Transfiguration of Giovanni Baudino’ is a fascinating mixture of music written for different orchestral instrumentations and with wildly varying intended emotional responses”.  After listening to this release I agree—there is an overall subdued and apprehensive feel to most of the works on this album especially in the opening and fetchingly titled The Rhetoric and Mythos of Belief.  All of Carollo’s titles invite you to hear the work to find out what the piece is about—with titles ranging from the somewhat cheeky and humorous Do You Have an E.R. for Music to the Symphony No. 2 (Circle of Fire) and the implied religious or mystical connotations of The Transfiguration of Giovanni Baudino.

Carollo is a new name for me. A glance at his website tells us that Carollo was born in Italy and studied composition at San Diego State University with Dr. Robert Wehrman; subsequently Carollo went on to attain a degree in Clinical Psychology. He practiced as such mainly in Hawaii until 2006, when he retired to write music full time. Truth be told—there is a very ominous, thought provoking tone to each work herein, yet I found nothing to dislike. Maybe John’s background in psychology is what helps contribute to the rather weirdly engaging titles of these works, too. The orchestrations are fairly standard and his harmonic vocabulary is largely tonal and diatonic with occasional and judicious use of dissonance.

I also found all of these works to have a net sound—a “feel”—that echoes film music at times, mid-twentieth century “contemporary classical” like a Sessions or Carter at times. Having said all that, I found this collection an attractive and curious listening experience that never really ascended to a level of “wow.” This music is very capably crafted but does not really command your attention. I think of the works herein I enjoyed and was intrigued the most by the Symphony No. 2 (The Circle of Fire) and by the title work, The Transfiguration of Giovanni Baudino.

Speaking of which, I had to go find out who Baudino was because the title certainly implies some sort of religious and spiritual experience, real or mythical. I was expecting to find a story of a religious figure similar to Ignatius Loyola or Francis of Assisi, let’s say, but I came up with a blank. Carollo’s website does not tell us either just who this Giovanni Baudino was so I guess it remains cryptic.

Carollo is a prolific writer with hundreds of works mentioned on his website; everything from orchestral output to song cycles to a large amount of electronic music. Again, while his music was on the whole interesting, it was certainly not captivating—at least for my musical preferences.  That said, Navona Records is to be applauded yet again for providing such a conduit for contemporary composers, of high value to the music community.

—Daniel Coombs

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