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Joseph CURIALE (b.1955?)
Gates Of Gold, for orchestra (1993-94)
Arrival: A View from Sea [3:12]
River of tears [7:01] Call of the Mountain [8:56]
Awakening (Songs of the Earth) for orchestra (1995)
Compassion [3:39] Forgiveness [3:44]
Joy [3:31]
Adelina de Maya, for orchestra (1995-96) Movement 1 [6:08]Movement 2 [5:01]
The Multiples Of One, for quintet* (1995) [5:22]
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Composer
*Track 9 played by:
Bryan Pezzone, piano; Miriam Clarke, flute; Jon Clarke, oboe; Robert Becker, viola and Larry Corbett, cello.
Tracks 1-3 recorded 25th July 1995, tracks 4-6 recorded 23rd January 1996, tracks 7-8 recorded 4th December 1996 all at the Abbey Road Studio, London.
Track 9 recorded 19th June 1996 at the Blue Moon Studio, Agoura Hills, California. DDD
BLACK BOX BBM1050 [46:43]
CD available for post-free online mail-order or you may download individual tracks. For some labels you can download the entire CD with a single click and make HUGE savings. The price you see is the price you pay! The full booklet notes are available on-line.

NOTE • Click on the button and you can buy the disc or read the booklet details • You can also access each track which you may then sample or down load. • Further Information.


The composer Joseph Curiale seems to like to cultivate an aura of mystique around himself. He writes in the booklet notes about certain thoughts and feelings related to the compositions but reveals little about himself. I have however read in a previous review of one of his CDs that he is 47-years-old, a classical trumpeter, has written and collaborated on several Hollywood film scores spending six years as part of the team at Columbia Pictures and has eleven years experience writing for the American programme ‘The Tonight Show’. In her preview notes for a recent Curiale concert performance, music writer Elain Guregain for The Beacon Journal quoted the composer revealing that, "My experience in Hollywood has been great. First of all, it gave me the money to live my truth, and I feel that I am living my truth now, doing the concert music I’m doing."

In a recent on-line interview of his, Curiale felt unable to disclose anything about his personal background; not wishing to be categorised, labelled or judged, wanting listeners to concentrate on his music. Curiale explains that, "writing the compositions was one of the most mystical experiences I have ever had… I often don’t even remember writing the music! (This was the case with ’Gates of Gold’)… When it was finished and I woke up the next morning and ‘listened‘ to it, I said to myself, What is this!!!… The more ‘centred’ I feel ‘spiritually’ the more creativity seems to flow. Many of the compositions have come while being in a very meditative state or while fasting…"

Listening to this CD my immediate thoughts were that this is generally ‘American music’, often evocative of wide open spaces, interspersed with heavy Latin and Far Eastern interpretations. This is not surprising as Curiale has explained that, "I feel that I am more ‘Japanese’ than the Japanese and certainly more Japanese than Italian-American of which I am 100%." The composer talking his usual ‘good game’ aims at an expressive function that is predominantly spiritual, exotic, incandatory colour and purity. In fact Curiale’s music is evocative of composers such as Hovhaness without the beauty and imagination, like Copland without the inspiration and substance, and of major film composers such as John T. Williams, Ron Goodwin and Jerry Goldsmith without having the excitement and variety of their melodies.

The first work ‘Gates of Gold’ is dedicated to the Chinese communities of North America. The composer was inspired by the struggle, determination and the lack of recognition given to the Chinese who emigrated to California in the gold rush of the late 1800s. The title ‘Gates of Gold’ represents San Francisco which was the principal attraction for the immigrants. Curiale composed ‘Gates of Gold’ between 1993-94 in both Canada and Singapore where he had close associations with the Chinese community. The ‘Gates of Gold is in three movements. The first movement ‘Arrival: A View from the Sea’ is exciting ‘American music’ mainly evocative of prairies, canyons and ranches. ‘River of Tears’ is the middle movement and is a curiously mixed bag. I kid you not but I can hear the oriental sound-world of Chen Kang’s and He Zhan-hao’s ‘The Butterfly Lovers’ violin concerto and echoes of Ron Goodwin’s film scores, such as ‘Murder at the Gallop’. Complete with its appealing The Big Valley / High Chaparral sounding big tune, the concluding movement ‘Call of the Mountain’ has an optimistic feel featuring a solo violin against the full orchestra.

‘Awakening (Songs of the Earth)’ was composed in 1995 during a six-month period of seclusion, in Southern California, following a near death experience in Asia, in 1994. The work is written in three movements the first of which ‘Compassion’, has an unhurried calm mood throughout. A solo trumpet with strings slowly introduced and a harp glissandi commences the movement followed by a slow and unhurried middle section for orchestra concluding with a meditative solo violin passage over muted strings. The central movement ‘Forgiveness’ commences with a short meditative introduction for woodwind, followed by a sad and reflective for passage for strings which increases in intensity and volume as the full orchestra is introduced. The final movement ‘Joy’ is very different in style and mood, for full orchestra with prominent brass throughout. Rumbustious and joyous in nature, evocative of open spaces, with a Copland and Bernstein-like cowboy prairie feel.

One critic reviewing this CD says that Curiale provided no memorable tunes. The critic must have given up listening before getting as far as the twin movement ‘Adelina de Maya’ on tracks 7 and 8 which is undoubtedly the star work of this release. Curiale lovingly dedicated this work to his sister Adeline Medeiros and to her connection and passion for all things Latin. "It is a story though, of life and death, colour and darkness, beauty and sadness, all bound by fruits of the spirit." Movement 1 features a solo Spanish guitar and has a certain intrinsic feel and mood of the works of Spanish composer Rodrigo. The gem here is the extremely appealing and high spirited Movement 2. Curiale finds a gloriously colourful and infectious melody, in the spirit of a Latin fiesta; a tune that I had in my head for several days. The brass, particularly the trumpet plays the melody, again a Rodrigo-style solo guitar is prominent and even the castanets join in the orchestral fun.

The final piece is titled ‘The Multiples of One’ for a quintet of flute, piano, oboe, viola and cello. Dedicated to Sathya Sai Baba, Curiale, states that, "it appeared as a kind of mantra… a prayer of supplication and thanksgiving to this universe of which we are all a part and from my own deepening sense of connectedness to everyone and everything." The well practised Curiale is ‘talking a good game’ again and I cannot unfortunately share his connectedness with this work. Featuring a solo piano, with obvious hints of Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’ and Rodrigo’s ‘’Concierto de Aranjuez’, I frankly found this small scale piece rather banal. Curiale took almost six months to compose this piece perhaps his enthusiasm was waning as was mine.

Despite the many similarities and echoes in this CD to that of established composers the listeners interest could not be sustained for the duration of these works. Curiale’s film music background is clearly displayed throughout the disc but I felt that his music requires a visual context and would be the perfect accompaniment to say a documentary film soundtrack. With the exception of Movement 2 of ‘Adelina de Maya’ the music does not move or inspire me and it is unlikely that I will be reaching out to play this disc in the future. I ask myself, ‘is this classical music’? Well that is a separate debate but I do like the description that Curiale has used in an interview when he used the tern ‘Concert Music’ to describe his music.

Black Box disappoint with extremely sparse booklet information and cannot even be bothered to include any timings which when checked are wickedly short, totalling only 46:43. The orchestra play this undemanding and generally uninspiring ‘Concert Music’ in an acceptable performance but well within themselves. They seem to have plenty left in reserve and are saving themselves for more emotionally satisfying and technically demanding repertoire. The sound quality provided by the young and enterprising Black Box label is usually out of the top drawer but for this release I could only judge the sound as acceptable.

Michael Cookson

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Gates of Gold

Arrival: A View from Sea

River of Tears

Call of the Mountain





Adelina de Maya

Movement 1

Movement 2

The Multiples of One

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