PIERRE SCHROEDER: Voyage – Karolina Rojahn, piano/var. instrumentalists/John Page – Navona

PIERRE SCHROEDER: Voyage – Karolina Rojahn, piano/var. instrumentalists/ John Page – Navona NV6000, 52:56 [Distr. by Naxos] (6/09/15) ***:

At first glance, it looks like this collection, Voyage, is actually eleven different short compositions. The composer’s own notes state that, actually, “Voyage is an eleven-piece suite for chamber orchestra that explores a wide range of musical styles, often in lyrical form.” So, I approached this CD as such.

I have never heard of Pierre Schroeder until now. That’s rather too bad because I see that he has several albums of what sound like very interesting work on various labels such as Centaur and, in addition to Navona, has some music handled by AllMusik and Peer Classical. Schroeder was born in France and presently lives in Los Angeles and has written much music for films; and has branched out into some classical forms. Schroeder‘s music is reminiscent of film scoring and even a bit of “new age” but is somewhat difficult to describe.

The important thing is that the movements in Voyage are all generally quite enjoyable and do actually stand on their own as separate small works if they can be performed that way. Schroeder’s intent here is to take the concept of a “voyage” as a journey, of sorts, through several different styles including movements that are strongly and purposefully evocative of jazz or gypsy, and so forth.

While the concept is simple and uncomplicated, it generally works. Having said that, I think some movements work better than others and leave a stronger impact that others within the whole. For example, I found the fourth piece, “Late Harvest”, to be a highlight with a characteristically lovely ‘autumnal’ tone. I similarly enjoyed “Lowland” with its laid-back, sultry feel including some nice guitar work by David William Ross and the closing “Snow” with a relaxing but somewhat melancholic mood fostered nicely by some neat interplay between soprano Thea Lobo and clarinetist John Ferraro.

The “Highway” sections (one and two) and the solo piano movements, “Vertigo” and “Morning Veil,” did not leave as strong an impression and seemed a bit like interludes and just a bit out of place to the whole. This also raises an important point. Schroeder wants the work thought of as a suite for chamber orchestra and it is, for the most part; however there is no movement in which everyone plays and only three that use forces larger than a quartet. No matter, it still all sounds pretty and likeable enough.

The group here is really a “pickup” orchestra comprised of some very fine independent musicians in a recording that was made in Massachusetts, actually. I don’t think of a work like this as very ‘classical’ in that hard core ‘contemporary classical’ sense but it certainly isn’t what most think of as true “new age” either. Pierre Schroeder seems like a very talented guy working in a genre that contains but only a few names that conjure up talents that could crossover into the appreciation of classical and jazz lovers. Seems like he is one of them and I would welcome the chance to hear more.

—Daniel Coombs

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