This is to much the same recipe as Vol. 1: One work (the first on the disc)
approachable and having instant attractions; the rest is gently atonal but
clearly the product of an avant-gardiste. It is no surprise to hear that,
after his four years in Paris studying with Nadia Boulanger, he returned
to the USA and found an affinity with Henry Cowell and Marc Blitzstein. His
natural voice is as a pioneer pushing at and breaching the boundaries of
Sunday in Brooklyn represents the approachable voice. It has plenty in common
with the American Sonata of two years previously. In Prospect
Park Billy Mayerl meets Delius meets Gershwin. Here you can fully appreciate
Boulton's deliciously relished light touch. This suite also accentuates the
scatty and mixes it with the grand promenade and quite a few splashes
of John Ireland (Amberley Wild Brooks). Siegmeister, the flaneur,
predicts the main theme from Star Wars in Sunday Driver. The
Family At Home drips slow-motion honey followed by the sentimentality
of Children's Story. Coney Island rips and snorts along in
Stravinskian railroad rhythms.
The second and third piano sonatas provide flanking for the Theme and
Variations. The latter has already established (in the early thirties)
the composer's voice as one that crosses the line of tonality and does so
with abandon and hints of Caledonian highland dances. The single movement
Second Sonata's shrapnel fragments of Beethoven 5 contrast with the three
movement Third Sonata with its demented Schoenbergian dream - all broken
mirrors and Ravelian impressionism.
The final five movement suite is a very late work. It has nothing in common
with the Brooklyn piece. Whitman, Faulkner and Twain are among those 'pictured
within'. The Twain movement is gawkily grotesque. The Thoreau
sketch finds some easeful repose in holding an atonal mirror up to
Macdowell's flower pieces and the woodland's noble savagery. The Langston
Hughes movement is a restless portrait suggestive of Harlem while the
final Faulkner essay skips and calls like an anteater on white hot
Kenneth Boulton who also wrote the astute notes provides all the unruly
liveliness and anarchic impressionism your heart could crave.
I find myself out of sympathy with most of this music apart from the
Brooklyn suite. My star marking reflects my reaction accordingly.
to all but the Brooklyn piece.