Classical CD Reviews

MARIA NEWMAN: The Art of the Chamber Orchestra, Book 1 = Concertos for cello, viola, brass; Concerto Grosso for String Orch. – Malibu Coast Orch. /Scott Hosfeld – Andrew Shulman, c. /Maria Newman, viola – Montgomery Arts House Masterworks

Maria Newman is a talented composer from one of our centuries most talented musical families.

Published on November 15, 2013

MARIA NEWMAN: The Art of the Chamber Orchestra, Book 1 = Concertos for cello, viola, brass; Concerto Grosso for String Orch. – Malibu Coast Orch. /Scott Hosfeld – Andrew Shulman, c. /Maria Newman, viola – Montgomery Arts House Masterworks

MARIA NEWMAN: The Art of the Chamber Orchestra, Book 1 = Concerto for Cello and String Orchestra; Chorales for Brass and Percussion; Concerto for Viola and String Orchestra; Concerto Grosso for String Orchestra – Malibu Coast Orchestra /Scott Hosfeld – Andrew Shulman, cello, Maria Newman, viola – Montgomery Arts House Masterworks MAHMR 1205203, 44:40 [12/08/10] (Distr. by Phoenix) ****:

Another member of the famed Newman musical dynasty has presented a collection of her works  that have power and sensitivity. Maria Newman is the youngest daughter of composer Alfred Newman, who brought us How the West Was Won, Greatest Story Ever Told, The Robe, and many more film scores. Her father was also the famed conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Brother David Newman is a popular film composer, with works including Hoffa and Galaxy Quest. Another brother, Thomas Newman, scored Finding Nemo, The Green Mile and American Beauty. Then there is cousin Randy Newman, who has continued the family’s film  score fame with scores for Pixar animations, as well as much other music.

Maria has become an acclaimed composer in her own right and is also a first rate string player and pianist. This disc represents some of her compositions for chamber orchestra, and it is a delightful listen.

The Concerto for Cello and String Orchestra, written in 2002 is both energetic and passionate. Newman has her own compositional voice, and the Concerto is the work of a mature composer. Andrew Shulman’s cello work is precise and artful.

The disc follows with Chorale for Brass and Percussion. Newman has written quite a lot of brass music, and has featured works for trumpet and french horn. The Chorale is broad and majestic in places, and playful in other sections. Newman’s work here is quite original and not derivative. The Chorale is a strong musical statement, well played by the soloists and the ensemble conducted by Scott Hosfeld.

Next we have the Concerto for Viola and String Orchestra. Newsman herself plays the viola on this composition. This work started life as a work for string orchestra, but later Newman added the viola. It’s another strong work. The disc closes with the 1996 Concerto Grosso for String Orchestra. It follows the traditional baroque form, but the instrumentation is denser and more forceful.

I can’t fault the playing by the soloists and the Malibu Cost Chamber Orchestra. Sometimes less known works like these get recording that are less than excellent, but the recording on this CD is quite good. The image of the ensemble is very stable between my two speakers, and the balance is realistic without the overt instrument highlighting that can often spoil a recording. The sound of the recording venue seems natural.

This was a surprisingly good disc from a composer who was not on my radar screen at all. It’s my first listen to Maria Newman as a composer and performer. Performances are very good, and the music is unique and listenable.

—Mel Martin




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