“The Real Beeler – The Symphonic Music of Alan Beeler” – Richard Stoltzman, clar./other soloists/ Slovak Radio Sym./ Kirk Trevor – Navona

by | Oct 8, 2014 | Classical CD Reviews

“The Real Beeler – Symphonic Music of Alan Beeler” = ALAN BEELER: Clarinet Concerto; Marimba Concerto in Sixths; Violin Concerto; Marimba Concerto da Chiesa; Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 4; Mad Song After William Blake; Homage to Roger Sessions – Richard Stoltzman, clar./Ladislav Bilan, marimba/Vit Mužík, violin/Slovak Radio Sym. Orch./Kirk Trevor – Navona NV5976, (10/14/14) [Distr. by Naxos] 72:23 ***:

Navona does a very fine job with introducing us to relatively obscure composers or lesser-known repertoire. The concept for many of these collections is really something of a “legacy” album; in this case that of long-time university professor and composer Alan Beeler. Beeler has taught at Eastern Kentucky University and Wisconsin State University at Stevens Point.

I first became somewhat familiar with Beeler’s work with the one piece, Cadenzas, on Navona’s pot-pourri album, “Slices”, in 2012. These present works cover some ground in Beeler’s output from 1986 to 2008. I did enjoy these works, some more than others. I think my favorites in the set are the Clarinet Concerto, played with verve by the great Richard Stoltzman (who, I must say, has never shied away from the lesser known.) The piece has some lovely lyrical moments and a little bit of jazz hue in the second movement, Andante moderato. I also liked the Violin Concerto, a bit more abstract of a work, but played well by Vit Mužík. I especially liked the central Adagio.

The two symphonies present, Symphony No. 1 from 2003 and the Symphony No. 4 from 2008 are interesting works, both of which rely somewhat on serial techniques, as in Schoenberg. I preferred the first Symphony (which, amazingly, Beeler admits was not written until he was already sixty-four years old) to the Fourth. I found the two marimba concertos curiosities but not really my thing. (I admit I have a somewhat limited appreciation for solo percussion works. I greatly prefer the big multiple percussion genre; with or without orchestra.)

The odd Mad Song After William Blake and the Homage to Roger Sessions are well-crafted and have their roots in some incidental music and re-reading of plays that the composer was doing at the time; unfortunately they just did not hold my attention.

Professor Beeler is clearly a very talented man and, I suspect, a very fine teacher. The problem for me with some of these pieces is twofold. First, it seems that Beeler writes very compactly. The longest work here pushes fourteen minutes altogether. This is not a bad thing necessarily, but it does sound in some cases like the music needs or the listener wants more development. Second, these works are written in a pseudo-atonal style that seems just a little dated. Surely all these issues are mostly a matter of personal taste but, for me, save the Clarinet Concerto and the Violin Concerto, these are works that are mostly just interesting.

Again, high praise to Navona and to Kirk Trevor for the commitment behind the concept. In its absence we might not even get to hear these works.

—Daniel Coombs

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