|LARSEN: Deep Summer Music (1983).
Solo Symphony (1999).
Marimba Concerto: After Hampton (1992)
John Kinzie, marimba; Colorado Symphony Orch/Marin Alsop, cond.
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Libby Larsen is one of the most prolific American composers, with an output including eight operas, five symphonies, many concertos, chamber music and songs. Composer-in-residence for the Colorado Symphony for the past three years, she has written a number of works for them. The major work is heard on this new CD, the is Solo Symphony written in 1999. Lasting nearly a half-hour, its four movements (Solo-solos; One dancer, many dancer(sic); Once around; The cocktail party effect) encompass a wide variety of styles and effects including all sorts of American dances with touches of jazz and blues. It's virtually a concerto for orchestra, with a heavy accent on percussion and brass; all players have plenty to do. The "cocktail party" title of the six-minute final movement is misleading. This is quite ominous throughout. You might find it intriguing to track the principal theme as it appears in varied guises in this rather tense "party."
The Marimba Concerto, premiered in 1992, is here played by John Kinzie, principal percussionist of the Colorado Symphony. The subtitle, "After Hampton," comes from the composer's assumption that "after the works of Lionel Hampton in the 1930s and 1940s, the mallet percussion instrumental (sic) was established in our culture as a vehicle for principal musical material." There are three movements (Allegro/Cross-Rhythms/Allegro Assai/Pass the Plate; Slowly, in muted Colors; Raucous/Full Turning/Constant Billy: Setting the Beans/Finale). There's no explanation of just what this means. In addition to the marimba, many other instruments also are soloists. This surely is a captivating, entertaining work and must be intriguing to watch in performance -- particularly in the last movement when several percussionists play the marimba.
Deep Summer Music, which begins the CD is a seven-minute successful attempt to capture in music the glories of of the American landscape and Fall harvesting. The undulating rhythms and rich tune in the strings are highly appropriate, rather like an American version of Honegger's Pastorale d'ete..
Performances are outstanding, the recorded sound a model of clarity with no loss of resonance. The only possible debit to this CD is the less-than-an-hour playing time for a full-priced CD.