Classical CD Reviews
SYDNEY HODKINSON, “Shifting Treks” = Potpourri: 11 Very Short Pieces; Epitaphion; Piano Concerto No.1: A Shifting Trek – St. Petersburg State Sym. Orch./Vladimir Lande/Barry Snyder, p./Moravian Philharmonic Orch./Petr Vronsky – Navona
Published on July 17, 2013
SYDNEY HODKINSON, “Shifting Treks” = Potpourri: 11 Very Short Pieces; Epitaphion; Piano Concerto No.1: A Shifting Trek – St. Petersburg State Sym. Orch./Vladimir Lande/Barry Snyder, p./Moravian Philharmonic Orch./Petr Vronsky – Navona Records NV5922, 64:42 (Distr. by Naxos) [7/30/13] ***:
Sydney Hodkinson was, from his press materials, a protégé of Rogers, Carter, Sessions, Britten, and Finney and has served as an artist-in-residence, director, and educator across the United States and Canada, including at the Eastman School of Music where he catapulted the renowned Musica Nova into the public spotlight through innovative artistic direction and programming. I am casually familiar with some of his wind ensemble works. Hodkinson’s training and his compositional voice is unique but also “East Coast American.” This collection of some of his orchestral music is interesting to be sure but I found the effects to be just a bit mixed.
The opening work, Potpourri: 11 Very Short Pieces, is just what the title implies. This clever little set of seemingly disconnected short pieces has interesting individual movement titles, such as “Spasm”,”Scoot” or “Gruff.” After a look at the composer’s website, we see that this work, in this form; Potpourri, is a re-envisioning of some pre-existing material plus some new “short pieces”. For example, Hodkinson had used “Spasm” in his Epigrams for symphony orchestra, from 1971. Each individual work does portray a particular mood and I did enjoy some of the set pieces, such as “Spasm”, “Cirrus” and the opening “Grinder.” I did have some trouble getting behind the work as a whole.
I personally found Epitaphion for orchestra the strongest work in this set. Written for and premiered by the Eastman School this is a “Lament” for large orchestra. The scoring is colorful and creative and this work is, indeed, a moody atmospheric work that I found a substantial addition to the repertoire. It reminded me in places of Jacob Druckman. In both Potpourri and Epitaphion, the St. Petersburg State Symphony under conductor Vladimir Lande gives strong, convincing performances.
I also found Hodkinson’s Piano Concerto No. 1: A Shifting Trek to be a very interesting and compelling work. Written in a somewhat untraditional four movements; giving the work a scope and feel more like a symphony with piano solo rather than a typical concerto, the work gets your attention with the opening Intrada. There is a grand feel to this movement that sets the stage for the rest of the piece. I enjoyed the buoyant urgency of the subsequent Allegro Energico with its lyrical piano line within the “impetuous” context. The third movement Arioso Ricorrente is a very restful and placid adagio that has a bit of underlying melancholy that I found very attractive. This movement was, for me, the highlight of the work. The closing Allegro vivace gives the Concerto a bold, propulsive and energy filled ending. Pianist Barry Snyder, who also premiered the work, and the Moravian Philharmonic under conductor Petr Vronsky offer wonderful and attention-getting performances.
This was my first real introduction to the music of Sydney Hodkinson. I do find his style to be very interesting and certainly worth hearing more. If Potpourri did not really grab me; Epitaphion and the Piano Concerto certainly did. I imagine that any listener would find something to enjoy here too and, again, congratulations to Navona for finding and recording music like this to bring to a larger audience.