Moments of Arrival
Elena ROUSSANOVA (b.1974)
Moments of Arrival (c.2009) [12:21]
Lee T McQUILLAN
Poet Song [9:04]
The Long Goodbye [7:26]
Julius WILLIAMS (b.1954)
InEquities in a Society (2014) [7:47]
Armand QUALLIONTINE (b.1950)
Celestial Nights Part 1 (2012) [13:32]
Reynard BURNS (b.1946)
The Voyage [15:05]
Linda Lister (soprano)
Coro Di Praga/Stanislav Mistr
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra/Julius Williams
rec. 2014, Prague Radio Orchestra Studios, Prague
CENTAUR CRC3456 [65:17]
Moments of Arrival, the title of this disc, is Elena Roussanova’s three-movement symphonic piece charting a sequence of journeys or landscapes. Born in Moscow but having lived and worked in America for a number of years, she has crafted a generous and warm triptych – maybe it could be called a symphonic suite or even sketches – that last around 12 minutes. There are elements that wouldn’t sound out of place in Copland or Roy Harris in the opening movement, Moving Forward, with its clean, fresh-faced, clearly argued, almost filmic language. She uses winds well, as she shows in the central panel, Reflection, a warm and lyric interlude in which the moon’s reflection in a lake allows for more nature painting. There’s pleasing momentum in the finale and destination is reached with flair.
If Moments of Arrival seems to honour American vernacular Lee T McQuillan’s two pieces are inspired by the poetry of contemporary writer Margaret Carbo. Poet Song illustrates the value of contrasting upper and lower choral voices against the solo soprano, Linda Lister, as well as deft use of percussion. There are traces of impressionist influence in this post-romantic setting. The companion work, The Long Goodbye - a very Chandleresque title - refers to the debilitating death of the poet’s father. This is a more straightforwardly heartfelt and romantic setting, bittersweet and touching, allowing the soprano rich melismatic, floating lines; there is, too, something Coplandesque about this in its quietly moving way.
Conductor Julius P Williams’s own compositional contribution is called InEquities in a Society and owes its genesis to race crime. Its language thus alternates between the oboe’s curlew-like opening statements, journeys via some taut, precise terrain with percussion and brass used well, to a more confrontational sequence. Breaking down into single calls, the music uncoils and the oboe’s plangency returns. Deftly written, with a strong narrative, this is another successful work.
The first part of Armand Qualliontine’s Celestial Nights is the penultimate piece in this disc, a serenade for orchestra which can be played as a discrete suite, hence the absence of part two (maybe it was too expansive to fit the disc). With its use of percussion and harp it presents a diaphanous profile, and the pizzicati and horn/wind dialogues vest the music with an apt sense of weightlessness but still musical density. It’s a most attractive piece of writing. Finally, there is The Voyage by Reynard Burns, a narrative quilt work of totemic American tunes, tracing a chronological journey from We Shall Overcome and Amazing Grace onwards. Not without passing ambiguous elements it’s a broadly affirmative opus.
This interesting, very approachable showcase offers perspectives on current, traditionally-minded American composers. Williams is the fine conductor and his Czech forces, orchestral and choral, with soprano Linda Lister, make a good impression, as do the notes. The recording is rather flat in perspective but I wouldn’t let that put you off this well-crafted selection.