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Carson COOMAN (b.
Symphony No. 2 Litanies of Love and Rain Op. 574
Partita for baroque flute Op. 526 (2003) [6:05]
Piano Concerto Op. 649 (2005) [8:41] Vision for violin and organ Op. 646 (2005) [3:38]
Symphony No. 3 Ave Maris Stella Op. 650 (2005) [16:34] Songlines, Sun Dreaming Op. 307 (2001) [6:53]
violin and organ Op. 573 (2004) [21:24]
Schultz (baroque flute), Nora Skuta (piano),
Rachel Gough (violin),
Rupert Gough (organ)
Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (opp. 574, 649, 650)/Kirk
Trevor (opp. 307, 574, 649, 650)
rec. Slovak Radio Hall, Bratislava, 15 April 2005, 11 November
2005, 10 March 2006 (opp. 574, 649, 650);
Kresge Recital Hall, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh,
24 September 2005 (op. 526);
Philharmonic Hall, Zlin, Czech Republic, 12 December 2001
(op. 307); Chapel of the Royal Holloway, University of London,
2006 (opp. 573, 646); DDD NAXOS AMERICAN
CLASSICS 8.559329 [73:40]
reasons I am sure I don’t need to spell out, reviewers have
become a little more questioning recently. The back-liner
of this disc omits the opus numbers but, when I opened the
booklet and saw them, my initial admiration for a 23 year
old U.S. composer who was writing his third symphony turned
to a degree of scepticism. Opus 650?! I suppose Mozart wrote
about that many works in his 35 years and there is a 10 minute
symphony and an 8 minute piano concerto on the disc. Few
modern composers seem to publish extensively in their youth.
One can imagine that it might be easier to write and publish
music today than in Mozart’s time although it is probably
a lot harder to get works performed. Anyhow, I soon found
the composer’s website detailing
the works, many of them commissioned and providing information
about performances. I also found three previous reviews of
discs containing his works on MusicWeb International (see
links below). So, apologies to Mr. Cooman for ever having
the evidence of this disc Cooman has a pluralistic style.
His Americanism is often detectable but, apart from in the
last movement of the violin and organ sonata, rarely striking.
The composer whose influence seemed to me most obvious is
Alan Hovhaness. Apart from composing large numbers of generally
short works with titles and outsize opus numbers, there are
aural parallels – tonal music that has a pulse that tends
to feel slow, simple harmonies, imaginative colouring and
so on. But Cooman seems less homogenous, at least from this
imaginatively programmed CD.
Second Symphony was inspired by the poetry of Kathleen Wakefield
although the work’s title is presumably the composer’s own.
It is in three parts with a coda with a relatively fast middle
section. The rain never comes although it is promised at
the very end. The orchestration is wonderful with prominent
trumpet solo and bells.
Partita for baroque flute has two movements marked Cantus and Ludus.
I have no complaints about the attractive music and natural
playing of Stephen Schultz but this was a bit too closely
recorded for my taste.
Piano Concerto is a brief gem written with Mozart’s 250th anniversary
in mind and looking imaginatively back at those of his concertos – such
as K449 – for which small accompanying forces are optimal.
Nora Skuta does a fine job with the solo part.
combination of violin and organ is unusual and the latter
is Cooman’s instrument. Both works for this combination were
written with the present performers – Rachel and Rupert Gough – in
mind. Visions was written to celebrate the birth of
the Goughs’ daughter. It is an atmospheric and contemplative
work, hopeful and symbolising a beginning. Despite the difference
in musical genre, I was reminded of the spirit of Peter Maxwell
Davies’s Lullaby for Lucy.
the forces used are smaller, the Third Symphony is a significantly
more substantial work than its predecessor – not just in
size but in the development of its musical ideas. The title
reflects the work’s origins in plainchant.
Sun Dreaming is the oldest
work here – written at the age of 19 and apparently recorded
before – all the others are première recordings. It is
dedicated to Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe and contains
allusions to his music.
sonata for violin and organ is the longest work on the disc
and is in three movements entitled Telescope, Ballade
for Max (Peter Maxwell Davies of course!) and Keep
on Shining! The last movement is striking for use of
gospel folk tune and it provides a relatively swift and rousing
conclusion. The playing of the dedicatees evidences their
belief in the music.
suppose one should not be surprised that, for the most part,
European performers and venues were used although Cooman
is credited with being executive producer. In the orchestral
works Kirk Trevor secures polished playing from both orchestras.
Apart from the forward balance in the Partita, the recorded
sound is unobtrusive. Capturing the right blend of violin
and organ cannot have been easy but the results are acceptable
and rather better in the sonata than in Visions. Cooman
contributes excellent notes on each of the works.
idea of listening to music composed by someone born in the
1980s made me feel old. But actually listening to this music
was a very positive experience. A natural successor to Hovhaness,
the mind boggles as to how much and what Cooman might write
if given another 64 years.
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