Volume 19 of MMC’s impressive New Century Series is a fascinating look into the composers and interpreters of our time. With concerti on either end and an overly-saccharine Symphonic Fantasia (Gary R. Featherstone’s thematic fixation with the Finale of Beethoven’s “Pastorale” is urgently in need of a film treatment that will relieve the text-book development), it falls to Robert Wilks’ Scarbo (an intriguing combination of wind and skin—faithfully rendered by Marian Turner, flute and Jaroslav Vavrinec, congas—with no orchestra in earshot despite the track listing) and Jeffrey Nytch’s orchestral tribute (Some Morning Yonder) to a dear friend to lift the collection from adequate and interesting to skillfully crafted and fulfilling.
In the opener, violinist Ondrej Lebr shifts effortlessly between Michael G. Cunningham’s long legato and agitated interjections over swathes of orchestral colours. The balance would be improved with more band, rather than less soloist. Despite a languid and lamentable “Andante,” the music—particularly the passagework in Cirroscuro—remains workmanlike rather than revelatory.
At the far end of the generous disc, Richard Stoltzman employs his characteristicly-oily, vibrato-rich “wow” tone to good effect in Rami Levin’s entry into the clarinet concerto repertory. Her obvious orchestration abilities are curiously seasoned with unintended nods to Bruckner’s “Romantic” Symphony in the “Andante” and “Jingle Bells” in the Finale. The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra’s conductor, Kirk Trevor, could use a dash of his New York Chamber Symphony colleague’s (George Manahan) tight rhythmic control—particularly in the saucy, zesty fun of the last frame. Ironically, that same control worked against Manahan in the N’Orleans Homecoming, where there were too many beats: not enough pulse. Still, Nytch’s deeply personal Ode—in the tradition of Copland’s Music for the Theatre—effectively and lovingly traverses the emotional gamut of anger, rage and acceptance of what must have been a wonderful life. JWR