Lee ACTOR (b. 1952)
Concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra [22:38]
Dance Rhapsody, for orchestra [15:50]
Concerto for horn and orchestra [14:28].
Opening Remarks for orchestra [5:55].
Celebration Overture for orchestra [11:28].
Debra Richtmeyer (saxophone)
Karol Nitran (Horn)
Slovak National Symphony Orchestra; Slovak National Symphony Orchestra/Kirk Trevor
rec. June 2007-2010, Concert Hall, Slovak Radio, Bratislava.
NAVONA NV 5848 [70:00]


These works were written between 2007 and 2010. Actor began as violist with the Albany Symphony. He was a software engineer in Boston and then moved to California. He is associated with the Palo Alto and Saratoga orchestras. His music is tonal, accessible, bright and subtle.

The Sax Concerto opens in an atmosphere of dark striving. When the sax enters the darting athleticism and frictionless slide of the piece drifts between Glazunov and the minimalism of Philip Glass. The central adagio is a hesitant soliloquy that leads into a fine melancholy melody. The final allegro molto pads along purposefully and then uproariously. It sounds like Debussy at full pelt in the Images. Richtmeyer has a pleasingly liquid accent.

The Dance Rhapsody is a colourful and vivacious essay, very skilfully orchestrated and mixing play with the clinch and the drama of the dance. If we think of Rozsa's El Cid, Ravel and Frank Bridge there is nothing amiss in this and nothing against Actor.

The Horn Concerto is in three movements just like the Sax work. Nitran also has a tendency towards liquefaction. But this, like the other music here, is accessible and yet nuanced enough to engage the gears of interest Ö and more. The Adagio references the Barber equivalent and has a generally time-holding stilling tendency. It also reaches across towards the quieter episodes in Britten's Serenade. The finale bounces along euphorically yet is distinct from the hunting determination of the first movement.

Opening Remarks is the equivalent of one of Shostakovich's and Kabalevsky's knockabout concert-openers. It's a sort of Colas Breugnon but with a certain edginess.

The final Celebration Overture would have benefited from being placed first on the disc. This too has that jackanapes Til Eulenspiegel cheekiness. Its open-air oxygenated playfulness is equivalent to Moeran's Sinfonietta and Overture to a Masque but with some eccentric sinister episodes along the way.

It's all very attentively recorded too and the performances by two Slovak orchestras are alert. They show what I take, from the composerís notes, to be fidelity to the scores.

The session venue is that Bratislavan equivalent of the one-time Kingsway Hall, the Concert Hall of Slovak Radio. The sound captured is impactful, laden with the fruit of instrumental character and transparent.

Rob Barnett

Tonal, accessible, bright and subtle.