The sparky and neon-vivid
city-wise Serenades, by American composer Daniel
Pinkham, works a treat in the hands of old hand celebrity
trumpeter Maurice Murphy - long associated with the Hallé and
Manchester. This three movement work has the jazzy virtuosic
lightness of spirit of Bernstein yet with a dash of The Incredible
Flutist by one of Pinkham’s teachers, Walter Piston. There's
some Hindemith in the broth too. It's a mercurial work of freewheeling
contrasts and with more than a dash of dissonance at the start
of the final Allegro. Murphy's trumpet is by turns triumphant,
querulous and confident. A tour de force of playing.
The two symphonies
are pretty compact for symphonies. The Third Symphony,
in four sections, was premiered in Pinkham's native Massachusetts
by the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Rudolf Schlegel
on 8 February 1986. This is a sterner work than the Serenades
although just as brilliant. A recurrent stutter from the
orchestra sets up an expectation and a mentally supplied ostinato
undertow which accounts for the work's success. The symphony
is alive with incident and yelping brass as well as desolation
and discontent. Clearly Pinkham also has another hallmark: scampering
and gambolling figures for the wind instruments. Time and again
Sedares surprises you with the vivid attack and fantasy he brings
to this music.
The very short –in
fact overture-length - Fourth Symphony was commissioned
by the National Gallery of Art. It is in three movements,
cleverly entitled Purling, Pining and Prancing.
The Bernstein romping of Serenades can be heard in Purling
(the motion of a river as it wends and swirls its way past
rocks and other obstructions). Pining is more thoughtful
than lamenting but it does provide a more emotional and humanely
vulnerable character than the Third Symphony. Again Sedares
whips an undeniable rip into this already often furious music.
Pinkham is also very good at exuberant endings and this one
ends with panache.
Sonata Number Three
is available in two
versions - one for chamber orchestra and this one for strings.
Rather like the slightly more melodious and less neo-classical
Organ Concerto by Malcolm Arnold, this work has a windy intimate
chiming Christmassy feel. There are also some delightfully inventive
touches to tempt you back. A kindly Andante Dolente leads
to a short and slightly reserved Vivace finale which
yet again ends with real creativity and originality in a richly
There you have it then.
Two stern(ish) symphonies flanked by two entertaining but far
from superficial concertante works. The liner-notes are by the