Classical CD Reviews
American Orchestral Works = KOLB: All in Good Time; KERNIS: Sarabanda in Memoriam; HERSCH: Ashes of Memory; CORIGLIANO: Midsummer Fanfare; HARBISON: Partita for Orchestra – Grant Park Orchestra/ Carlos Kalmar – Cedille
Published on January 24, 2007
You certainly can’t argue with the progress and current state of the Grant Park Orchestra—they play like seasoned veterans with all of the ability of the finest bands to be heard. Listen especially to the Corigliano work where the trumpets are taxed to the max—this is very impressive playing by anyone’s standards. (Kalmar also conducts the Oregon Symphony.) Acoustically the orchestra is captured very nicely by the Cedille engineers, though the sound does have a slight bit of a “shell” feel to it, but this is hardly detrimental to the overall program.
What is detrimental is the program itself. The composers represented here are all either established names or noted note-worthies. The problem, judging from this well-conceived release, is one of profile. As one listens to all of this music, there is not one composer who jumps out at you as the representative of a vital new American school, though it is obvious that all are trying hard. Corigliano’s 2004 rambling and sort of goofy fanfare feels more like autopilot; Barbara Kolb’s All in Good Time gives us a lot of minimalist rambling posing as time but very little substance to constitute the “All”.
John Harbison (maybe the most accomplished here) presents a lovely suite of Baroque substance and virtuoso opportunity that he considers the work a concerto for orchestra, and rightly so. Harbison’s work sometimes takes time and effort to appreciate, and the rewards are no fewer here. This is a fine work of skill, humor, and craft. But it is Michael Hersch’s Ashes of Memory (not a 9/11 tribute, but a collage of appended memories of the composer) that rings the bell the loudest on this program. Hersch is obviously a young (35), talented voice with a lot of compositional chops in his repertory. This 20 minute work has much intensity, exquisite moments of beauty, and wears its heart on its sleeve in a way that most tributes or memorial pieces don’t. There are no subtle moments of reflection here, and loads of flooding feelings being poured out in a sonic wave. The memoriam work by Aaron Jay Kernis pales in comparison.
So we have an interesting concert with mixed results in quality. The sound is excellent, and the program notes erudite and pointed.
– Steven Ritter