“Dimensions – Works for String Orchestra” = GREGORY HUTTER: Deploration; LOUIS BABIN: Couleurs, La Suite du Promeneur; REYNARD BURNS: Revolutions; ANDREW MARCH: Sanguis Venenatus; CLAUDE DEBUSSY (arr. RICHARD STOLZMAN): Maid with the Flaxen Hair; RUDY KRONFUSS: River of Time; DANIEL BURNWASSER: Flux – Czech Philharmonic Orch./ Robert Ian Winstin, cond./ Moravian Philharmonic Orch./ Petr Vronsky, cond./Gabriela Kummerova, Fr. horn/Slovak Radio Sym./ Kirk Trevor, cond./ Richard Stolzman, clarinet/Concordia Orch./Marin Alsop – Navona Records NV5895 (Distr. By Naxos), 51:26 ****:
This is a very nice set of works for string orchestra in a wide range of moods and colors by composers who are mostly lesser knowns. In it you will find something to please your tastes to be sure. The one exception to the “lesser knowns” issue, for me, is—of course— Debussy’s Maid with the Flaxen Hair; but performed here beautifully by clarinetist Richard Stolzman in his own arrangement of this well-known piano work. This is a quite lovely arrangement well suited to Stolzman’s unique and colorful tone.
The collection opens in very attention getting fashion with Deploration by Gregory Hutter. This is a fairly extended and beautiful adagio that reminded me a bit of the Barber Adagio in its plaintive (indeed “deploring”) nature. Hutter is a member of the De Paul University, Chicago, composition faculty (my alma mater!) and has established a well-deserved reputation nation wide for his open, tonal and eclectic style. Hutter is represented on other Navona releases and this piece offers a great introduction to his music.
There are two works by Louis Babin. Both his Couleurs as well as the longer five-movement La Suite de Promeneur are very nice works with a slightly nostalgic feel. I was especially impressed with the Promeneur with its picturesque feel. Babin is a Canadian with an extensive background in television and film scoring but he is also an expert trainer in Apple “Logic Pro” software; quite the multi-talented figure.
Revolutions by Reynard Burns is a brief but pleasant work with dance-like qualities that sounds very suitable to all sorts of groups, from professional orchestras to higher quality school ensembles, befitting his own background in music education. I had previously been familiar with his very fine work, Flying, which earned him an award from the ASTA in 2001.
Sanguis Veneratus by Andrew March holds some of the same plaintive and slightly melancholic qualities as I admired in the Hutter work. This is a beautiful and reflective piece. March is a British composer who is best known for a series of impressive choral works. This somewhat religious work makes me definitely want to find out more about his music!
River of Time by Rudy Kronfuss is another very pleasant work; this time with a foot in the jazz door, a bit. Kronfuss is an Austrian composer whose own experiences have been in rock, jazz and classical. This brief, very soulful work also has a very nice French horn obbligato (not an English horn as listed on the back of the album!)
This collection closes with Flux by Daniel Burwasser, another quite enjoyable work that felt just a bit jazz influenced in places as well. Burwasser is a percussionist of note and teacher at Hunter College. This is an interesting piece that travels through many different moods and holds the interest throughout.
Navona always does a great job issuing compilation albums, thematic in a way that showcase new or lesser-known composers. I think anyone would find something to enjoy in this very fine collection. Personally, I thought the best pieces and which encourage me to learn more about the composer are the works by Gregory Hutter and Andrew March, although I, too, enjoyed each piece herein.
All performances are of the highest quality and string players and string teachers would especially like this release!