Here is one of the finest American composers that you have never heard of (yes, you are a cultivated bunch, and surely a handful of you out there will know this great music!). Also a guitarist and film composer, Charles Roland Berry (born 1957 in Boston, MA) has written symphonies, concertos, string quartets, and solo works. Among Berry's composition teachers was the American master Paul Creston, whose tutelage came about rather late (Creston worked with Berry during 1982-1983) and to my ears (happily), Creston had a lasting effect on the composer. The rapturous Cello Concerto is a very fine and exciting work, and the Symphony No. 3 "Celestial" is a simply beautiful, modal work with a clear tonal center. There are several passages that are somewhat reminiscent of Hovhaness (especially during the first movement), and for me that's always a delight.
|Charles Roland Berry|
Here are some of the notes by the composer:
"The works on the new Centaur Records CD were composed in 2002 and 2003 in Seattle, Washington. They show a variety of style and structure, all with predominantly tonal harmonies. I have experimented with Form, more than with tonality. I am also interested in the interactions between Melody and Rhythm. I will often contrast irregular halting rhythms against a lyrical melodic line. Olympic Mountains Overture is tribute to the grandeur of these mountains, and can be considered a tone poem. Quileute Overture was inspired by a visit to La Push, Washington, home to the Quileute Indian tribe. This tribe lives between the mountains and the sea, a stormy place, which gave rise to myths of the Thunderbird. This piece uses no Native American music, though I attempted to create an exotic mood, using unusual orchestration, with ocarina.
Symphony No. 3 and the Cello Concerto are large scale works, with contrasting movements. My intention was to explore different ways, to create a coherent form for each of these movements. The overall mood of Symphony No.3 is calm and optimistic, which led me to subtitle the work, "Celestial".The first inspiration for my Cello Concerto was recordings of standard repertoire, performed by Lynn Harrell. After the piece began, I drew inspiration from the performance techniques of Walter Gray. I have dedicated the work to Walter Gray, in gratitude for his artistry and friendship. He was the first cellist play the solo score of the Concerto, and the solo cello part for Quileute Overture.
My intention with each of these works was to compose music which is both accessible and modern, music which can be enjoyed by the concert-goers who enjoy standard romantic and classical repertoire. I have deliberately avoided many well-established, contemporary composition techniques, because I feel those techniques alienate many listeners. I believe a composer can be adventurous and original, without inventing new musical languages, arcane languages, which are unintelligible to most listeners. My intention is to offer some familiar reference points, and then reach beyond those references to new forms of expression. Coherence in any piece is achieved by some kind of repetition. By choosing which fragments are repeated, how often, and in what disguise---I am able to create Forms which have infinite variety, and rely little on any historical forms. I use intellectual planning, only to get started with a piece - later I find preconceived plans, whether Classical, Romantic, or Serialist, get in the way of the music."
Meanwhile I have no idea if the "Olympic Mountains Overture" Berry mentions in the notes is recorded...it's not on this Centaur release!)
*Thank you to anyone who was kind enough to leave comments over the last couple days; it's a hectic time right now but I wanted to at least offer a great weekend post. I shall read and reply to everyone by Sunday evening :)