's buzzingly tense Contrabassoon
has the feeling of a fantasy but one ‘conducted’
in a shadowed landscape falling into night. That initial pedal-pointed
rumble recalls the start of Bax’s First Symphony and Strauss’s
. The sound is brilliant without being unnatural.
The contrabassoon in this compact single movement work does not
try to be the sort of troubadour the tuba is in the RVW concerto.
One can nevertheless hear - in his skill and invention - why Erb
has been such a successful composer. In his catalogue this concerto
is flanked by his The Seventh Trumpet
(1969) and two years afterwards by the Concerto for Brass and
’s endearingly entitled Blackberry Vines
and Winter Fruit
is also tense but there’s a bleakness
too. This must be reflective of – as the composer writes – ‘the
lonely beauty of the Vermont winter landscape …”. Do not be fooled
into thinking that this is some icy pastoral like Winter
in Glazunov’s The Seasons
. There’s a sort of oratorical
anger here. If it is picturesque one might be forgiven for thinking
of the sort of landscape that Ligeti had in mind for his Le
Montana-born Erik Lundborg’s Switchback
is a “homage to the big sky of my youth”. It’s a nature tone-poem
of the Rockies. Again it sounds modern - like the Richter but
more cataclysmic. The writing is angular and the title refers
to the switchback roads necessary to attain the State’s mountain
heights. The music is bright, frank in its discord and discontinuity
as well as in its forbidding eloquence. This is nature without
the yielding human element.
was a pupil of Hindemith, Bloch and Milhaud.
Bazelon’s two movement Eighth Symphony
joins the honour
roll of American works for orchestral strings alongside Schuman’s
Fifth and the Sinfoniettas by Herrmann and Waxman. Here Bazelon
again arrogates to himself the laurels of dissonance and does
so without fleer or flinch. This is hard-line, unrelenting music;
no punches are pulled. Explorers should note. His First Symphony
is on Albany
There is an unrecorded Symphony No. 3 but the others have all
been in the studio: No. 2 Testament to a Big City
and No. 6 (Albany TROY 370), No. 4 (1965) (Albany TROY 363), No.
5 (1967) (CRI CR623 (1993)), No. 7 Ballet for Orchestra
(1980) and No. 9 (Albany TROY 174), No. 8 ½ (1988) and No. 10
(unfinished, 1995) (Albany TROY 101).
The notes are extremely thorough and informative if in necessarily
small print. The performances and sound are of elite quality.
Here are four fairly uncompromising and distinctive American works.
The Bazelon is the most demanding in its dissonance and the Erb
the most instantly approachable though still complex.