Friday, June 5, 2015

Elliott Schwartz - "Voyager" - Five Orchestral Works - Voyager for Orchestra - Mehitabel's Serenade for Alto Saxophone & Orchestra - Jack O' Lantern for Chamber Orchestra & Lights - Celebrations/Reflections: A Time Warp for Orchestra - Timepiece 1794 for Chamber Orchestra - Albany Records 2004

Elliott Schwartz is an American composer (b1936), rather unknown to many, yet he has at least 10 discs dedicated solely to his music, and his music can be found on a handful of compilations as well.  I'm not saying they are all readily available, the compilations in particular could very well be out of print, I dunnooo. Now 79 years old, he has spent 40 years based at Bowdoin College, Maine. One of his early works was advanced enough to be included within DG’s 'Avant Garde' series but on the other hand he wrote a book on Vaughan Williams's symphonies. Schwartz fits few of the categories associated with American composers-he's a 'joker in the pack'. In some of the works here he's obsessed with quoting existing music imaginatively rescored, with a sense of allusive fun partly derived from Ives. 

"Voyager" (2002) is based on four countries represented by traditional music from Iceland and Japan, works by Sweelinck and Josquin, and selections from Boyce, Sterndale, Bennett, and Vaughan Williams. Schwartz's continuity is based on cunning maneuvers from one reference to another. An obvious one is a repeated-note figure from the first movement of Vaughan Williams's Symphony No. 4, which turns up as a kind of referee (whistles are blown, too) in a discourse punctuated by eloquent major triads. This is largely a serious piece with its principal motif based on the notes spelt by the composer's name, notable E, E flat, C, B, A. But it ends with a frivolous waltz-Schwartz is sending up his sources(more clues would help), himself and his listeners. Not since George Antheil has American music been responsible for such a a rather quirky and fun way.

On the lighter side, "Jack O'Lantern" is a Halloween fantasy based on music by two composers called Jack (Dunstable and Offenbach make the oddest of bedfellows) and has lighting effects in a live performance, showing Schwartz's developed sense of theatre. "Timepiece: 1794", written for the bicentennial of Bowdoin College, also revels in exhilarating stylistic shifts. The retrospective Celebrations/Reflections ruminates on private associations including a Victorian parlour song and some crazy confrontations, but "Mehitabel's Serenade" is close to a conventional concerto for alto saxophone-admirably played, as well. These recordings involve a variety of forces-but no biographies are given, which is ridiculous (I'm sure I can easily get info on the performers, I just don't have time right now). All the same, this is an intriguing portrait of an American original, see-sawing his way from contemporary music to traditional music and then back again.. And a good listen I think.

1)Voyager for Orchestra

2)Mehitabel's Serenade for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra

3)Jack O' Lantern for Chamber Orchestra and Lights

4)Celebrations/Reflections: A Time Warp for Orchestra

"Timepiece 1794 for Chamber Orchestra"

5)I. Mr. B's Fancye
6)II. Clockwise
7)III. Make a Joyful Noise

Enjoy ye peepz


theblueamos said...

I just listened to The Light Wraps You: New Music for Oboe ,again,and wanted to thank you again.Be well,best wishes from Jerusalem.

Tzadik said...

Hi, Blue! The New Music for Oboe recording is really a great time. The Bimstein piece always cheers me up (as do all of his other works!) -TZ