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Alec WILDER (1907-1980)
Air for Bassoon (1945) [5.40]
Air for Flute (1945) [6.00]
Air for Oboe (1945) [3.36]
Slow Dance (1945) [4.42]
Theme and Variations (1945) [5.12]
Carl Sandburg Suite (1960) [16.32]
Suite No.2 for Tenor Saxophone and Strings (1966) [9.53]
Serenade for Winds (1979) [11.49]
Gary Louie (saxophone)
Humbert Lucarelli (oboe)
Kenneth Pasmanick (bassoon)
Manhattan Chamber Orchestra/Richard Auldon Clark
rec. Recital Hall, SUNY/Purchase, NY, 1993.
CLASSICS NPD85570 [65:24]
was unfair of Newport Classics to (mis)quote Whitney Balliett
on the cover of the booklet of this CD. There we see Orchestral
Works by America’s Master of the “Derrière Garde”, In
fact Balliett actually dubbed Wilder "The President
of the Derrière Garde" - a much better epithet. If he
was one thing, this wonderfully enjoyable composer was streets
ahead of the opposition, and he was a true American original.
Wilder’s music is tuneful, well-crafted, never outstays its
welcome and always leaves you wanting more. If only those
things could be said of so many others. If that wasn’t enough,
he was the author of the definitive book on American Popular
Song (The Great Innovators 1900-1950) (OUP New
because he was almost entirely self-taught Wilder easily
moved from the popular to classical fields and back again,
creating hits for the Mills Brothers (I'll Be Around),
Miss Peggy Lee (While We're Young) and many others,
pieces for chamber ensemble and suites and sonatas for his
Miller organised Wilder’s first recordings in 1939 and after
the war Frank Sinatra, on hearing some of Wilder’s concert
pieces in a radio broadcast, contacted the composer telling
him that the music should be better known and persuading
CBS to record the album known as Frank Sinatra conducts Alec
Wilder - an object lesson in exactly how these delightful
pieces should be performed. The 1945 works on this disk are
also on Sinatra’s LP and although they’re well played here,
they lack the ease of expression found in abundance on that
earlier recording. Compare the Theme and Variations on
both recordings. Clark has clear lines and a fine sense of
purpose. Sinatra lets well alone, allows the music to almost
play itself and when the band suddenly slips into some swing
it seems the most natural thing for it to do. With Clark
I feel the players to be somewhat self-conscious at this,
and other similar, points.
other three pieces, however, are much better served, being
larger-scaled works, requiring a different approach.
Sandburg Suite is a four movement affair, weaving together
eleven songs from Sandburg’s 1927 publication “The American
Songbag” - a collection of folksongs the poet gathered
in the first quarter of the 20th century during his travels
round the country. They played a huge role in the folksong
revival that was sweeping America at the time of the Wilder
composition. It‘s outgoing and unbridled - a kind of slightly
Louie’s playing of the Suite is lovely, and the string orchestra
support is just right. This is a real winner, five movements
written in Wilder’s most laid-back style: easy-going and
amiable. The six movement Serenade is a much different proposition.
Written for the renowned Eastman Wind Ensemble, this is serious
music with a serious purpose.
far as the music goes this is a splendid collection of Wilder’s
music. There’s something for everyone and I hope many will
be tempted to investigate this composer further. There are
many CDs currently available of his many different pieces.
I particularly enjoyed one which collected together all his
Suites for various instruments with strings (the Suite recorded
here is included on that disk).
orchestra and soloists play very well indeed, but, as already
noted, with perhaps a little too much reverence and not enough
freedom. It‘s hard for classical musicians to allow themselves
to be sufficiently laid back to play this music. The recording
is clean and clear but the recorded sound gives the impression
of a large hall with the orchestra perhaps a little too far
away from the microphones, allowing too much of the ambience
of the hall to get between the listener and the players.
is too important, and enjoyable, a composer to be ignored.
Miss him at your peril.
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