far as I’m aware I haven’t previously encountered the music
of Carson Cooman. However, I see that several discs of
his music have already been reviewed on MusicWeb. Bob Briggs reviewed
CD devoted to songs and piano music while another disc,
of piano music, was appraised
Dan Morgan. Patrick Waller was generally welcoming when
disc of orchestral music. I’ve deliberately tried not to
read their reviews in any depth so as to form an unbiased
first thing that struck me when I received this CD was
the sheer industry of Mr Cooman. Though he was born as
recently as 1982 it appears from the material included
here that by 2006 he had already notched up Op. 683 and
one assumes that further music has been composed since
then. Yet Cooman is also active as an organist, specialising
in contemporary music, and also as a writer and musicologist.
One might legitimately wonder where he gets the time for
all this activity.
the brief biography in the booklet we learn that his composition
teachers have included Bernard Rands and Judith Weir. To
judge from the music on this disc he writes tonal, accessible
music. The pieces on this disc sound to be very skilfully
written for choir and, as one might expect from an organist,
the pieces that are accompanied have effective organ parts.
The style is almost exclusively homophonic.
the pieces on the programme were written in response to
specific commissions, mostly from churches, the majority
of which seem to be in New England, or from conductors.
That may account for the accessible nature of the writing.
I suspect Mr Cooman sought to make these pieces relatively
easy – and I don’t use that word pejoratively – for audiences
or congregations to assimilate and enjoy at first hearing.
In that I’d say he’s succeeded. To what extent he’s succeeded
in writing music that says anything new I’m not quite so
music, which is consistently well crafted, has a good deal
of surface appeal but it seems to fall between two stools.
It rather lacks the originality – and daring – of some
composers who have written challenging but accessible music
for choirs – I’m thinking of composers such as James Macmillan
or Judith Bingham. On the other hand, it doesn’t really
have the melodic appeal of a composer such as John Rutter.
not to say I didn’t enjoy the music. The Missa Brevis
for example, is a succinct setting, which contains a rather
beautiful ‘Lamb of God’. The Mass sounds well here and
I should think it works well in a liturgical context. I’ suggest
that the Evening Canticles, placed at the very end of the
programme, are also effective liturgical items. I think
I prefer Cooman’s slow music – of which there’s quite a
bit in this recital – to his faster pieces. Often, when
he writes in a vigorous vein – for example in Adam Lay Ybounden
in the exuberant outer sections of Easter Triumph! Easter
; or in his setting of Psalm 66 - one feels one
has heard many similar pieces written, just as well, by
other hands. His slow music does have a sincerity and directness
of expression that’s effective. One such piece is The
Lamp of Charity
. Also worthy of citation are the slow,
mysterious In The Beginning Was the Word
of Julian of Norwich
, which is grave and rather lovely.
summary, my feeling is that this music would be excellent
in the context of church services and that any of these
pieces would be a welcome addition to the repertoire of
any church choir of a reasonable standard of accomplishment.
Whether it justifies a whole CD release I’m less sure.
I’d certainly suggest that this is a disc best dipped into
rather than for listening right through. I can’t escape
the niggling feeling that perhaps, as a composer, Carson
Cooman is just a little too prolific for his own good.
performances by the Royal Holloway choir are excellent
- I especially admire the choir’s blend and their clear,
fresh sound. They are sympathetically recorded and the
engineers achieve a good balance between the choir and
the accomplished organ playing of Samuel Rathbone.
Naxos American Classics review pages