This album of contemporary American orchestral works includes five relatively short pieces that Cedille advertise as making their recording premieres. I must admit I didn’t care overmuch for all of them, which may explain why nobody has ever recorded them before, but I must also admit that there are parts of some of them that are distinctly worth pursuing.
Things begin with a kaleidoscope affair by composer Barbara Kolb; it’s a ten-minute morsel called All in Good Time (1994). Kolb says it represents a rhythmic development of time, and it does indeed stop and start quite a lot on its way to its end. Fortunately, there are a few cute surprises along the way, and it makes for some fascinating listening, especially since Maestro Clarlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra seem to find much joy in it.
Following this piece, however, we find two rather gloomy works, Aaron Jay Kernis’s Sarabanda in Memoriam (1997) and Michael Hersch’s Ashes of Memory (1999). Call me a barbarian (“You’re a bararian”), but I found little solace, comfort, joy, or life in them; maybe, given their titles, the listener isn’t meant to. I know the usual retort to such a criticism is to say that I simply didn’t understand the music. Fair enough; I’ll accept that. I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t much like it, either.
John Corigliano’s Midsummer Fanfare (2004) I did like, though, quite a lot. It’s an energetic affair once it gets underway, and under Maestro Kalmar it’s most festive and confident. The final piece on the program is the longest at twenty-two minutes and perhaps the most conventional, John Harbison’s four-movement Partita for Orchestra (2000). A booklet note explains that the word “partita” has come to mean different things through the centuries, but that Harbison uses it in several ways: as a game, a playing with the music, and as a dance suite. The piece alternates between sweet, lyrical passages, playful ones, and moody ones, ending on a fairly spirited note. It’s fun, and, as I say, I enjoyed it.
I have come to expect good things from Cedille Records and anything engineered or co-engineered by Bill Maylone, and he did not disappointed me. The audio is exemplary. The orchestral sound is vivid, clear, vibrant, and open, with plenty of dynamic range and impact. In fact, the sound is so good it made even the downbeat Kernis and Hersch pieces more pleasurable to listen to.
To hear a brief excerpt from this album, click here: