FRANK LEE SPRAGUE: Concerto for Violin with Orchestra – Wichita Falls Records

by | Mar 14, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

FRANK LEE SPRAGUE: Concerto for Violin with Orchestra – Wichita Falls Records WFR344, 30:42:

I probably should have passed on reviewing this disc which the composer requested to send, but the list of faults is so lengthy that I felt it warranted coverage to show that we don’t automatically wax enthusiastic over every disc that comes our way. First, a couple of our reviewers would have immediately downgraded this disc due to its extremely short length. My thought was Well, this is his first big work and better he should present it by itself than fill up the disc with lesser encores that don’t come up to its level musically.

Next, the disc is an individually-burned CD-R; that should have made me suspicious, but many discs from the major labels come to use that form nowadays. Third, there are no notes or information on the fledgling composer and no identification of the orchestra, soloist or conductor. That should have also made me suspicious. OK, in the disc goes to my now CD-R-friendly Integra universal player.  Whoa! The orchestra is entirely virtual – it’s all synthesized, and not very convincingly either. Obviously not a Kurzweil. OK, I thought I, I’ll allow that; the composer wants to get his work out and can’t find an orchestra to premiere it, so he has created one electronically and will be the soloist in his own concerto. I settle in for the entrance of the violin in the concerto. And waited. And waited. Eventually I realized I was hearing the violin and it too was synthesized – not a real instrument!  I’m afraid that was the last straw for me.

But wait! There’s more: The music is very bad. Obviously a first effort, and wouldn’t get a very good grade in a composition class. On top of that there are crude manipulations to the digitized orchestra that stand out blatantly – for example in the middle Adagio movement a wah-wah sort of effect as though the volume was being twisted up and down rapidly on the whole orchestra. The Wichita Falls label name made me think of Pat Metheny and the “Ultraphonic Series” label on the disc made me think audiophile pretensions. Not quite so on either count.

– John Sunier

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