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Carson COOMAN (b. 1982)
Gold into Diamonds (2007) [11:45]
New Dawn (2008) [2:18]
Chorale Preludes (1999) [4:37]
Bell Mosaic (2001) [2:36]
Seven Haiku (2005) [4:50]
Oakdale Sketchbook - a piano suite for children (1997) [9:12]
Aria: Yet Brighter Light (2002) [2:19]
Rainshower (2002) [00:52]
Kahlenberg (2005) [3:37]
Lingering, Lonely Callings (2004/2005) [22:28]
Winter Sonatina (2007) [5:16]
Mountain Toccata (2008) [2:57]
 Amanda Forsythe (soprano), Jeffrey Grossman (piano)
rec. 21 - 22 May 2008, Futura Productions, Roslindale, Massachusetts. DDD
 ALBANY TROY1053 [72:33]
Experience Classicsonline

This is all very pleasing stuff; easy to listen to, pleasantly melodic and it certainly won't scare the horses. And therein lies the basic problem with this music - I want the horses to be scared! Let me explain.
 
All this music is written in a language we know from the new simplicity. It's an idea which has been around for some time and many composers have adopted and used this style in their own way - Hans Abrahamsen's Symphony in C (1972) is a very good example of this style, and the three CDs of Barbara Harbach's music show just how she's used this idea and made it quite her own. And there's the crux of this matter; they've made it their own.
 
Cooman's music is always very pleasant, but there's no real incident at any point in any of these pieces - even the protest of Power in the Blood (the third Chorale Prelude) seems contrived and I'm left feeling as if I've just heard a newly discovered piece by Henry Cowell. And herein lies another problem with this music, there's far too much Aaron Copland, Ned Rorem, Henry Cowell, Virgil Thomson, not to mention the easiness of popular music, in here to make any of these pieces truly original and ultimately worthwhile.
 
Take, for instance, the Oakdale Sketchbook, which, if used as a kind of teaching aid to introduce children to modern compositional styles is fine, but as something for listening I am not so sure. The first could be a Copland Piano Blues, the second a Widor toccata (!), the third one of Barber's Excursions, the fourth Bartok's Allegro barbaro, and so on. Whilst listening I was always playing the "spot the composer" game. After a while one stops listening and simply wonders why you're even bothering to listen.
 
The songs are quite lovely, and are very singable, with good vocal lines and accompaniments which don't go against the sung music. But I'm constantly reminded of Copland's wonderful Emily Dickinson settings and too many of Ned Rorem's songs.
 
The performances are obviously very committed - Jeffrey Grossman is a fine pianist and I'd love to hear him in piano works by any of the composers already named for he has a fine technique - but Amanda Forsythe displays a slight wobble - this is not vibrato - which becomes annoying as it's on almost every note - that's how we know it's not a vibrato! The recorded sound is excellent.
 
Yes, this is most enjoyable music but unfortunately there's nothing here which makes me want to hear it ever again.
 
Bob Briggs
 

 
 




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