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Zimbel Recordings

Threads: Concerto for Orchestra
Plainsong Variations for solo cello
Zest: Fanfare for Orchestra
Sonata for Brass Choir
Beyond All Knowing for chamber orchestra
Night Songs for chamber orchestra
Symphony of Light for string orchestra
Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra/Vit Micka
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Kirk Trevor
Chicago Brass Choir; Michael Stewart
Craig Hultgren (cello)
No recording information available.

Carson Cooman is a prolific composer of music in most forms ranging from chamber opera through orchestral, instrumental and choral to electro-acoustical works. He has undertaken many commissions and is particularly active in the field of church and religious music; a ‘spiritual’ bent is also evident in his more obviously secular music. The spread of works on this CD reflects Cooman’s compositional variety though an investigation of his vocal music must await another recording.

Anybody expecting a work of Bartókian dimension and invention from Cooman’s exercise in the orchestral concerto form will be disappointed, though ‘Threads’ has its virtues. The first movement Chorale is processional in character, big colourful blocks of sound with oriental touches suggesting epic film music. The Nocturne, an evocation of Boston’s Beacon Hill at night, suggests a comforting neighbourhood with the cello (recorded rather too prominently) assigned a concertante role. The influence of Copland is discernable. The final movement called Patterns has the feel of sea film music about it. Its description in the notes as ‘energetic’ must be taken relatively, as it spends a long time becalmed.

Cooman’s variations for cello on a plainsong melody draws fine playing from its dedicatee Craig Hultgren Rather over-reliant on a glissando figure, the work seems strongly felt and was enjoyable to listen to though I don’t feel the need to hear it again. The same goes for Zest, though it is interesting enough to remind me of Walton.

I can imagine enjoying the three movements of the Sonata for Brass Choir as a recital piece in a resonant acoustic rather than with the recessed sound on this CD (only for this piece). The Arioso is involving and the finale gains rhythmic interest from its hints of the Czech furiant.

The composer describes Beyond All Knowing as ‘an attempt to create a "sacred space"’. Without having a clear idea of what that might be, I can only say that piece moves slowly and solemnly in a conventionally religious sort of way, conjuring up a ritualistic procession of hooded figures. Though I cannot say whether the composer has achieved his objectives for the piece, the music would certainly give a strong background flavour to an appropriate film-scene. The same could be said for the Night Songs; a nature documentary of some sort came to mind. Regrettably, I could not make even this claim for the Symphony of Light which fell well short of the expectations created by the ambitious title, being without any strong character and harmonically uninspired.

The overall impression of the CD is of music that mostly engaged me at the time of listening but is not particularly memorable. I kept hoping for something more distinctive as each new piece presented itself but I was ultimately disappointed. Still, with over 450 works to his credit, Cooman must be worth further investigation, perhaps starting at, especially if you are interested in contemporary religious music.
Roger Blackburn


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