Mahler Symphony No. 4 and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Christine Brandes Soprano, Susan Platt s, Mezzo-Soprano, Thomas O’Connor, Conductor, Smithisonian Chamber Players and Santa Fe Pro Musica. Craig Dory Producer, DORIAN Recordings. Recorded at Domain Forget
Cantaloupe Music recording of “Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation” by Michael Harrison, composer and performer. Producer and Engineer Adam Abeshouse. Recorded at The American Academy of Arts and Letters
The Music of William Bolcom and Clare Fisher, Richard Stoltzman, Clarinetest, Gary Sheldon Conductor, Lancaster Festival Orchestra. Recorded at Lancaster Festival in Ohio. Marquis Classics Label 81397 (52′ • DDD)
Ragomania – A Classic Festival Overture Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra
The Duke, Swee’Pea and Me
Commedia for (almost) 18th-century orchestra
William Bolcom Ragomania: “Gramophone” magazine Review
Musical magpie William Bolcom offers music to keep one’s attention
Pity any composer placed on a programme with William Bolcom, whose sheer exuberance and shameless pilfering of popular music and dance forms of the past century would threaten to lose any competing voice in the, ahem, shuffle. Clare Fischer’s The Duke, Swee’Pea and Me, a fantasy tone-poem for clarinet and orchestra, succeeds by being as different from Bolcom as possible. Instead of a virtuoso surfing of various vernacular styles, Fischer digs deeply into one (namely the collaborations of Ellington and Strayhorn); rather than recreate the spirit of improvisation on an immaculately composed page, Fischer leaves room for soloist Richard Stoltzman to depart from the score on his own.
Rest assured, though, this remains a Bolcom recording. His raucous Ragomania opens the programme with crashing contrasts of volume and dynamics (the percussion-heavy scoring intended to top the crowd noise of its commissioner, the Boston Pops, Bolcom claims in the liner-notes). His three-movement Clarinet Concerto, also featuring Stoltzman, channels the spirit of Benny Goodman, who took the opposite of Bolcom’s musical route, venturing from jazz to symphonic music (and for whom Bolcom had been itching to write).
After nearly 12 minutes of Fischer – a musical fan letter of sorts to his sources -Bolcom wrests back the recording with Commedia for (almost) 18th-century orchestra, a bravura display of attention deficit that has become the composer’s most performed piece. Under conductor Gary Sheldon, the Lancaster (Ohio) Festival Orchestra flits through a wide array of styles, offering a sure touch for whatever requirements the music demands at any given time. Ken Smith
Arkiv Music Review in United States
Cheerful and attractive.
Now here’s a disc to cheer you up! If you like the music of George Gershwin or Malcolm Arnold, or if you know already the eclectic style and lambent humor of William Bolcom, you won’t be disappointed. Nothing is too serious here, but nothing is simple either.
Not very characteristically for our times, Bolcom loves ragtime, and has written quite a number of rags. Ragomania is his “Rhapsody in Rag” – its glorification, just as Ravel’s La Valse was the glorification of the waltz. The music is jazzy, jagged and jaunty, with catchy tunes and masterful writing for the orchestra. The music is loud, with tons of brass and percussion. As the composer explained in the liner-note, he wanted to cover the audience noise at the Boston Pops concert! Ragtime is a dance, and dance is about movement, so there is a lot of movement and energy in the music. While an excessive loudness can be a problem, the infectious drive set by the conductor is irresistible. The performance is inspired; all rhythmical games are well played. Still, overall it sounds as just another festival overture in the upbeat mood. We’ve heard it many times, and this is a new dish from the old kitchen. On other hand, if you like the old kitchen, why not try a new dish?
The more I listen to it, the more I like the Clarinet Concerto. In the musical space, I would place it somewhere between Prokofiev, Poulenc and Piazzolla. Its structure is classical. The first movement is marked Allegro, but is played as a leisurely Andante. The music reminded me of Prokofiev’s concertos – and of the exotic paintings by Henri Rousseau. The orchestration is not too thick, and does not eclipse the soloist. The clarinet of Richard Stoltzman sings over the clashes and murmurs of the orchestra. There is some ragtime again in one of the themes, with a nice swing. A minute-long cadenza is sharp and spiky.
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