Quiet City/Copland

July 31, 2011

On first listen to this world premiere recording I quickly recognized the theme from the film Our Town and immediately thought this isn’t new, what gives? When in doubt go to the liner notes and alto saxophone soloist Christopher Brellochs explains about the dress rehearsal in April 1939 for the Irwin Shaw (1913-1984) play that never saw an opening. Copland stated “My career in the theater has been a flop.” The original instrumentation an unusual combination of trumpet, alto sax, B flat clarinet (doubling on bass clarinet), and piano is a first experience unless you were there in 1939.

The first few notes, a jumpy statement from the trumpet makes it instantly recognizable as a Copland composition if you’re familiar with his work. The ensemble quickly joins and the trumpet offers the first melody followed by the woodwinds and piano. This is followed by a second melody the “Our Town” theme performed by the entire ensemble. There is a playful exchange between piano, clarinet, and saxophone the trumpet being quiet for the moment. The “Our Town” melody truly represents the work of Copland. A third theme is introduced on the saxophone a soothing melody short lived as the “Our Town” theme reappears. A loud staccato exchange takes place with a return to the original theme the trumpet repeating and it is brought to a conclusion.

The recording from Sono Luminus (DSL – 92135) is well done with precise and clear definition from the clarinet, sax, and piano. The trumpet was clean and crisp without the shrill one often hears. The CD also includes works by Ornstein, Aldridge, Hartley, Lunde, and Barab.

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