This is, in race horse parlance, another Nimbus ex MusicMasters
production. The recordings are now, amazingly, over twenty years
old but they certainly bear the new and somewhat austere, though
evocative, livery well.
Music for the Theatre dates from 1925 and owed its genesis
to a Koussevitzky commission. The composer took incidental music
for a projected play and utilised it for the new work. There
are five movements with the Prologue, and its brisk quasi-reveille
calls, setting the scene with its quiescent material that leads
inexorably to a jazzy and luminous coda. The muted trumpet and
clarinet that haunt the Dance suggest a post-Ragtime sensibility
and Hot Dance music rather than the Jazz that Copland suggested.
It certainly has more of a tightly rhythmic New York feel than
the more curvaceous insinuation of a Chicago beat. In the warmly
lyric Interlude the cor anglais is the star and this ushers
in a cheeky Burlesque where the trombone's cocky call over
a walking bass adds greatly to the fun. The finale revisits
the first and third movements and adds some restful stasis to
end a happy, snappy work, tautly and sympathetically played
by the forces of the Orchestra of St. Luke's under Dennis
Quiet City is naturally better known but again trumpet
and cor anglais are to the fore. Stephen Taylor is the cor anglais
player here and I assume he was in Music for the Theatre
as well. He and trumpeter Chris Gekker play with fine tone and
measured cantilena. The strings turn lush when needed; no astringent
aspersions are cast. Music for Movies dates from 1942
- the quartet of compositions is presented chronologically.
This is a vital, energising piece of work, one of his breeziest
and zestiest. It flies kites for serious composers and film
music, whilst ensuring that colour, rhythmic flair, localised
characterisation, and convincing orchestration are all surely
realised. To end we have the Clarinet Concerto. It's not
such an odd bedfellow as it may seem, especially when the playing
is so consonant and William Blount so highly effective a soloist.
Of course you will have your own Numero Uno to play against
each of these four recordings. Probably you'd go for Bernstein,
Levi or Litton in Music for Theatre, or Copland himself
(or Marriner - excellent) in Quiet City. The composer
or Slatkin are probably best for Music for Movies and
you have a whole Appalachia full of choices with the Concerto,
according to how jazzy or straight you want it - Goodman, Meyer,
Stoltzman - best with Tilson Thomas on the rostrum - or maybe
Drucker - and there are plenty more.
As a single disc however this one, excellently recorded, finely
played, and well annotated (by Vivian Perlis) is a winner.
see also review by Dan
Morgan and Bob Briggs