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David Nisbet STEWART (b. 1941)
Piano Concerto (2008) [22.46]
Martin Levicy (piano), Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra/Petr Vronsky
rec. Reduta Hall, Olomouc, Czech Republic, 7-8 September 2011
Suite for piano-brass quartet (2012) [15.17]
Terry Everson and Andrew Sorg (trumpets), Wesley Hopper (trombone), Karolina Rojahn (piano)
rec. Shalin Liu Performance Centre, Rockport, Maryland, 16 April 2012
George GERSHWIN (1898-1932)
Porgy and Bess: suite [17.30]
Tower Brass Quintet
rec. Bryan Recital Hall, Bowling Green State University, Ohio, 1993
NAVONA NV 5892 [55.33]

Last year I had cause to complain bitterly about the presentation of another Navona release featuring the music of Alejandro Rutty, where no sleeve-notes at all were provided and one had to download the booklet from the CD using a computer. I pointed out that was extremely user-unfriendly and did no favours whatsoever to the composer’s inevitably totally unfamiliar music. My complaints obviously fell on totally deaf ears, because here again Navona provide no booklet or information at all about the scores, the composer or the performances included on this CD - and yet again this must militate against any sort of recommendation for the disc unless the listener is exceptionally dedicated. As before, putting the CD into a computer promptly brings up an audio track; it requires some additional exploration to find the booklet, which is extremely print heavy with no fewer than 38 pages all in elaborately designed full colour. It took quite some time even to ascertain the dates when the works were written, because each page had to be opened separately. I could find nothing in the booklet at all to explain the presence of the suite arranged for brass quintet from Porgy and Bess, although I may simply have been looking in the wrong place. No, this is simply not good enough.
The solo advantage of this quite extraordinary procedure is that it enables the listener to download copies of the scores by David Nisbet Stewart; but in order to open these files one has to view each page individually, and then the scores are not labelled on the disc other than as “Score 1”, “Score 2” and so on, which hardly helps one to find one’s way around. Again I could find nothing to explain the presence of the Gershwin item on the CD. There are also some extras such as ringtones, which add absolutely nothing to the attractions of the disc.
The music itself is attractive enough, but not sufficiently so to propel me into the trouble and expense of printing off the booklet or scores. I could find no details whatsoever regarding the performers on the disc, although the composer’s notes especially on the Piano Concerto are pretty comprehensive and come complete with music examples. Both the concerto and the Piano-brass quartet (only three brass instruments, making four in all) are quite enjoyable and approachable in musical terms, and are extremely well performed.
The odd inclusion of the Gershwin arrangements is particularly peculiar because of the nature of the arrangements themselves. The first track is described as Overture, but it is not the overture that Gershwin wrote, rapidly moving from the opening bars of the opera into a sort of pot-pourri of various ‘hit’ tunes. The players sometimes play the music straight, and sometimes jazz it up a bit, but apart from the fact that the track containing Bess, you is my woman now is described as “(arr. Lube)” the basis for the selection and its arrangement remains a mystery. Far be it from me to suggest that the inclusion of a performance recorded nearly twenty years earlier than the rest was motivated solely by a desire to compensate for what would otherwise have been extremely niggardly playing time, but it does give that impression.
I am sorry to be so churlish about a serious attempt to place before the public the music of a composer who deserves rather better presentation, but as in the case of the Rutty disc which I reviewed last year the company should seriously reconsider the manner in which their discs are set before the public. It is bad enough, although more understandable, having to download and print texts for operas and vocal music, but I really hope that sort of thing doesn’t catch on.
Paul Corfield Godfrey