Jamestown Concerto/William Perry

August 19, 2011

William Perry has to be the most overlooked of any American composer. If he had chosen to go to Hollywood and earn his money making scores for films he would have been an ‘A’ composer in the same class as Williams, Bernstein, Goldsmith, and Broughton. In April of 2008 I reviewed another Naxos film release of his music for Mark Twain (Naxos 8.570200). https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/innocents-abroad-and-other-mark-twain-filmsperry/     Were it not for his new release Music For Great Films of the Silent Era and I’d not seen the release in his discography I would have missed this fine Cello Concerto as well as works from Schuman and Thomson.

While the Jamestown Concerto is written as a cello concerto you can throw away any ideas of a typical structured three movement material. While the Cello plays a major part in the work it is written as program/tone poem piece. I like the idea and at least for this reviewer it is a new and fresh concept. Each movement begins with a solo from the cello, an interlude.

This work was written for the 400th anniversary of the first colony in America and was given its premiere in Scottsdale, Arizona on 1/28/07 with Yehuda Hanani performing on the Cello as he did on this recording. William Eddins conducted the RTE National Symphony of Ireland for this CD.

“London 1606. The Virginia Company.” Beginning with a solo cello, the story begins. We hear an opening melody, an uplifting one before the orchestra offers the same theme in a very modern style with swirling strings and tinkling percussion backed with statements from the brass. In seamless fashion they offer a second melody a romantic one featuring the cello but nicely complemented. The short movement is nicely orchestrated with the brass adding color to the arrangement.

“Settlements Along the River” begins with a sad Cello opening before as the composer writes “an interlude depicts dawn in the New World.” There is a skirmish noted by the horns and this is not a loud section during the fighting part. We’re introduced to the Pocahontas theme by the flute a light Mozart type theme, no Indian reference as we’re accustomed to. The movement ends on a bright note.

“The Long Winters” with a statement from the timpani and a sad theme from the Cello but there is also a measure of hope written into it. This is the bleak time of winter for the colonists. The theme is beautifully played by Yehuda Hanani.

“Pocahontas in London” offers a bright lively dance introduced by the Cello and then the orchestra. Perry’s orchestration nicely blends old and new styles to create a pleasant listening experience. The movement ends on a sad note with the passing of Pocahontas.

“Jamestown: Four Hundred Years On.” Modern day Jamestown with the hustle and bustle of a city is offered and the original Virginia Company returns for one last time recalling the past. A brass fanfare proud and majestic along with a showcase from the Cello ends this twenty four minute work on a bright and cheery note.

This is a premiere recording that shouldn’t be overlooked. It should be explored. Further listens will reveal this new and fresh concept. Highly recommended.


Track Listing:

1… London 1606 The Virginia Company (4:12)

2… Settlements Along the River (4:56)

3… The Long Winters (4:40)

4… Pocahontas in London (5:45)

5… Jamestown : Four Hundred Years On (5:07)

Total Time is 24:41

Naxos CD# 8.559344

RTE National Symphony of Ireland conducted by William Eddins




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