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Zimbel Records

Thomas L READ (b. 1938)
Night Pageantry (2007) [10:47]
Piano Music: Volume II (1979/1981 rev 2000) [18:19]
Corrente (1980) [12:11]
The Dancing Air (1987) [8:59]
Christmas Variations (1983) [6:55]
Neil Boyer (oboe); Steven Klimowski (clarinet); Racheal Elliott (bassoon); Janet Polk (bassoon); Bonnie Klimowski (cello); Donna Amato (piano); Cynthia Huard (piano)
rec. Earth Audio, Ferrisburgh, Vermont, 1982 (Corrente), Recital Hall, University of Vermont, Burlington, 2008 (Night Pageantry and Christmas Variations) and Patrych Sound Studios, Bronx, New York, 2008 (Piano Music: Volume II and The Dancing Air) DDD
Experience Classicsonline

‘Thomas L. Read was born in 1938 in
Erie, Pennsylvania. He studied violin, composition and conducting at the Oberlin, has been a member of the Erie Philharmonic, Baltimore Symphony, Boston Festival Arts and Handel/Haydn Society Orchestras, Vermont Symphony, and the Saratoga Festival of Baroque Music, and following his appointment as Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont in 1967, his innovative series of new music concerts and lectures (Symposium on Contemporary Music, held annually from 1968 until 1991), in addition to his activities as teacher, violinist, conductor and clinician, led to his reappointment as Professor of Music in 1976; Professor Emeritus, 2008. He continues to be active as a violin soloist and conductor as well as a composer.’ 

‘Over the past three decades he has created a body of music that projects a consistent and distinctive personal style while embracing a variety of New Music idioms and techniques. Critics, while noting its lyrical qualities, have called his music "substantive and meticulously planned, with a wide expressive range leaving a feeling of rich satisfaction." His seemingly free lyrical forms are the outcome of "compositional strategies that engender multidimensional and fascinatingly equivocal emotional states".’ 

I quote the foregoing from Mr Read’s website for it seems to me to be a better introduction to his music than anything I could write. My reason for this is simple, and I have said it before: everything on this disk has been done before and we’ve heard it a thousand times, and from more proficient hands. Far from Read “… embracing a variety of New Music idioms and techniques …” the music presented here is monochromatic, dour and deriving from a non-tonal base which has been overused in the years following the Second World War. There is no variety between the works, for instance, The Dancing Air could quite easily fit into Piano Music: Volume II without any sense of its being a separate composition. 

In a note in the inlay. Carson Cooman states, “From the light, festive joy of Christmas Variations to the intense, abstract trajectory of Piano Music: Volume II, Read’s music seduces with its supreme attention to detail, its naturally unfolding lyricism, and its deeply musical voice.” Cooman is correct when he uses the word light for the Christmas Variations for it would be impossible to be otherwise in a composition for clarinet and cello but when compared to Hindemith’s (9 duos) Musikalisches Blumen – Gärtlein und Leyptziger Allerley there’s no comparison, the German showing much more variety and expression in his miniatures. As to thenaturally unfolding lyricism” of Piano Music: Volume II I am at a loss to hear it for the seven pieces are so similar in language, gesture and effect that there is no chance for any real lyricism to emerge. 

J Rosen, in MLA Notes writes that "Read…has his own distinctive voice". I cannot find it. Indeed, this music seems quite faceless and without charm. I recently reviewed a CD by another American whose name quite escapes me, and found his work to be as dull as what we have here. It’s one thing to be able to construct a piece of music – which is not the easiest thing in the world – but it’s quite another to create something of lasting worth. I fear that there are many people working in academe in America - and I have heard much like this on American radio stations - writing in exactly this same style, and gaining performances and critical appraisal, yet without being able to add that special something which makes a musical composition totally satisfying. 

The performances are, I am sure, very good, but would that that energy had been lavished on something more worthwhile: a disk of Henry Brant’s music would be much more welcome. 

Bob Briggs 




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