‘Light and Shadow – Modern Orchestral Works’ = RAIN WORTHINGTON: Tracing a Dream – Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Ovidiu Marinescu, conductor; REBECCA OSWALD : Finding the Murray River; Sleep Child; ADRIENNE ALBERT: Boundaries; Interiors; TADD RUSSO: Family Voices – Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra/Vit Micka, conductor; RUSS LOMBARDI: Tonisadie – Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra/Vit Micka, conductor; DANIEL PERTTU: Light and Shadow in the Yosemite Valley – Ohio State University Symphony Orchestra/Marshall Haddock – Navona Recordings NV5847, 51:59 (Distr. by Naxos) ****:
Navona Records and the committed audio masterminds at PARMA Recordings continue their impressive record of introducing very attractive new works by composers who are not very well known and in excellent performances. To that point, Navona has worked very successfully with the Moravian Philharmonic and conductor Vit Micka many times before. Micka has an obvious enthusiasm for new music and is a strong advocate for many younger composers. On this disc, his Moravian band excels in the selections from Oswald, Albert and Russo but the Pilsen Philharmonic, of which he is also the conductor, does a remarkable job in the Russ Lombardi “Tonisadie”, as well.
This is, essentially, a compilation album. Each work represents a big label premiere of a major orchestral work by these talented composers. Each piece is very attractive and enjoyable to listen to. “Tracing a Dream” by the New York composer, Rain Worthington, is a very tonal, captivating piece with a bit of mystical or Eastern flavor to it. In the composer’s words, the piece “taps into the impressionistic logic of emotions and dreams. Within this realm there is a fluidity of connections and sequences that is governed by emotional contexts rather than rational order.” This piece is, indeed, characterized by a flowing, dream like quality, utilizing wonderful wind solos and little bursts of color and imagery from the percussion and brass. This is a very nice piece and I am anxious to learn more about Ms. Worthington’s music. In this case, the performance is by the Russian Philharmonic under Ovidiu Marinescu and the playing is beautiful, sensuous and fluid throughout.
Rebecca Oswald is represented by two very interesting works, conducted here by Micka and the Moravian Philharmonic. “Finding the Murray River” is a brief but wonderful picturesque excursion to what the composer describes as a “fictional geographical place, as well as metaphor alluding to one’s heart’s desires” (I do wonder, though, if Rebecca had ever been to Australia, which is what I expected to read) The music is light and easy going, possessing a bit of film score quality to it – not a bad thing. Her other work represented here is “Sleep, Child” which the composer says she was “..inspired to write after watching a newscast in which a mother living in a wartorn country tried to comfort her child” This is another very attractive piece, in this case containing a bit of the more somber and reflective quality the theme suggests. Oswald is recently of the University of Oregon and writes in a number of forms wherein there is ample beautiful melody and light, clear orchestration.
Adrienne Albert is a graduate of UCLA and has collaborated with Philip Glass and Gunther Schuller, among many other well knowns. She has built a career doing film scores as well as serving as a composer in residence at several Cal State campuses. Albert is represented here by two compelling works for string orchestra, “Boundaries” and “Interiors”. Both are very tuneful, pleasant and emotional. Originally for string quintet, “Boundaries” has a bit of underlying tension in it, which might be due to an actual “boundary dispute” she was having with a neighbor! “Interiors” was commissioned for the In Praise of Music series and is intended to depict the moods and playful nature of children and the composers’ hopes for “the world situation” Both of these works, regardless of any thematic intent, are engaging and a pleasure to listen to.
Tadd Russo is a guitarist, composer and educator on the faculty of Morgan State University in Baltimore and studied composition with Dr. Thomas Wells at Ohio State University. A very busy and eclectic individual, he has written for orchestras, wind ensembles and popular artists. “Family Voices” was written as incidental music for an Ohio State production of the Harold Pinter play, Family Voices and a Kind of Alaska. Originally for string trio, the orchestral suite heard here is drawn from many of the various scene cues from the incidental music and this work also has a strong pathos to it. Russo’s music is tonal, accessible and, in this case, a bit melancholic. Very well played by the Moravians, it makes me want to learn more about the Pinter script and of Russo’s other works.
“Tonisadie” is a very jazz influenced work with some minimalist touches to it as well. Russ Lombardi is a composition and jazz theory professor at the University of Maine, Augusta and professional bass guitarist. The title itself is a reference to “light and shadow” and the music is imbued with a wonderful lilting feel and some very attractive wind parts. The chords and wind writing do seem to have their roots in some jazz and film elements and make for a very nice experience. In this case, Vit Micka leads the Pilsen Philharmonic in a very buoyant and sincere performance.
The last work in this fine collection is “Light and Shadow in the Yosemite Valley” by Daniel Perttu. Perttu is a theory and composition teacher at Westminster College in Pennsylvania and was trained at Ohio State University. Through the use of some vivid, declamatory wind writing and familiar tonality, this piece does seem to evoke the wonders of light plays the great cliffs off the great rock faces in Yosemite National Park. The Ohio State University Orchestra under Marshall Haddock plays with verve in this captivating work.
All in all, this is a very nice, very attractive compilation of new orchestral works. The works have some elements in common in that they are all overtly tonal and all address some emotional output or scenic connections. To me, each of these works was a pleasure to listen to. I personally found the Worthington and Oswald works the most compelling but this is all good music by composers whose music I would like to get to know more. I do wish Navona would have included a program booklet because finding out more about each composer and the intent of these pieces required internet research; albeit a pleasurable experience. The PARMA recording group continues to provide interesting, lesser known works performed very well and produced at a very high standard. Thank you for that! I look forward to more.
— Daniel Coombs