This is Volume one of Albany Record's "Paul Freeman Introduces" series, an enterprising project that records works by lesser-known composers and, like most of Albany's priceless catalog, encourages listeners to explore otherwise uncharted compositional territory. The project is headed by the passionate conductor Dr. Paul Freeman, who eloquently introduces the program and the composers at hand on track 1 of every disc (there are 12 volumes in the series).
Kimo Williams's poignant "Fanfare for Life" packs an instant punch and is a splendid beginning to this recording. Richard J. Rendleman's "October 9, 1943", which is the 2nd movement to his Symphony No. 1 is a slow and sublime movement, and by the sound of this music it's tragic that the whole Symphony has not been recorded commercially (I have emailed him recently, hoping to acquire a private recording..) and I'm happy I "discovered" this piece again; I haven't played this disc in many years. "Runagate, Runagate" by Wendel Logan was initially far from appealing to me. However after many listens, and given the music's sincerity and subject matter, It has grown on me; I do not particularly care for the Tenor however. The Yardumian piece is the reason I bought this disc, and as I expected it's a beautiful and entirely convincing opus. Saltzman's "Walls" has it's moments, but for me that's about it.
James Kimo Williams is a versatile composer who has written both serious and commercial works. He is a faculty member of Columbia College in Chicago and writes the following:
"Fanfare for Life was commissioned by AT&T and premiered May 6, 1994 by the Chicago Sinfonietta at Orchestra Hall in Chicago under the baton of Paul Freeman. I composed this work in direct response to the outgrowth of gang violence during that same year.
A 14-year-old girl, Shavon Dean, was shot and killed by 11-year-old gang member Robert Sandifer. Robert was then hunted down and killed by two members of his gang, a 14-year-old boy and his 16-year-old brother. That same summer 5-year-old Eric Morse was dropped to his death from the 14th floor of a public housing high-rise by two little boys ages 10 and 11. This tragedy occurred simply because Eric would not steal candy for them.
With Fanfare for Life, the beauty of life is presented with an orchestral fanfare. In the second segment the lives of these children are symbolized by two distinct pentatonic melodies. These melodies are cut short as were the young lives that never developed. The third segment (brass tutti) is a variation of the two "child" melodies, symbolizing the families that now only have memories of those lost lives. The last segment is a repeat of the initial fanfare, again emphasizing the beauty of living and the celebration of life. Fanfare for Life is dedicated to the memories of these young souls: Shavon Dean, Robert Sandifer, and Eric Morse."
Richard J. Rendleman, Jr. was born in 1949 in Salisbury, North Carolina and holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he currently serves as Professor of Finance. At age 32, he began studying composition with the renowned composer Robert Ward. As a result, he has written a number of works for piano, chorus, chamber ensembles and orchestra. His works have been performed or recorded by a number of orchestras, including the North Carolina Symphony, the St. Stephens Chamber Orchestra, and the orchestras of Knoxville and Seattle.
Dr. Rendleman provides the following notes:
"October 9, 1943 serves as the second movement of my First Symphony, completed in 1997. The music is based on a poem of the same title by my grandfather's cousin, Margaret Proctor Wood (born in Danvers Massachusetts, 1881, died 1971). The opening passage was originally set for soprano and piano in my song cycle, Poems of Margaret Proctor Wood. This passage is then extended for string orchestra featuring harp and flutes. The text of the poem is as follows":
October 9, 1943
The yellow leaves drift through the golden air
Making a sound like ghost treads in the grasses.
One pauses in its downward flight
To brush my cheek as it passes.
In the old fond caress she used when I was seven.
The chamber version of Wendel Logan's "Runagate, Runagate" was first performed at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta in 1990. Subsequently the orchestral version was premiered by the Savannah Symphony in 1994 with the distinguished tenor William Brown, for whom the work was written.
Wendel Logan, who is a prolific composer and on the faculty of Oberlin College, writes:
"The text and title of my composition are based on Robert Hayden's collage poem "Runagate, Runagate," which was taken from the collection Angle of Ascent(1975). This poem and others from the collection ("Middle Passage," "O Daedalus, Fly Away Home," "the Ballad of Nat Turner," and "Frederick Douglas") represent a kind of historical chronicle of the Afro-American journey towards freedom.
My primary concern in attempting a musical setting of Runagate, Runagate was to capture some of its inherent musical qualities: the frenetic "beat" of a train (symbolic of the Underground Railroad); the unmistakable melodic character, resulting from repetition of lines and phrases and the use of lines from spirituals ("Mean, mean, mean to be free" and "And Before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave"); and finally, the imagery of the poem, from which sprang many creative ideas about drama, pacing, sound, texture, and so forth. The word "runagate" refers to a fugitive, a runaway slave."
Richard Yardumian (1917-1985) enjoyed a rather unusual career as a twentieth-century composer. Although he is largely self-taught, by the mid-1940's his music had attracted the attention of Leopold Stokowski, Jose Iturbi, and Eugene Ormandy, who encouraged and supported the young composer's work. He was composer-in-residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra for nearly 15 years.
Yardumian's "Veni, Sancte Spiritus" was premiered by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra on April 3, 1959 and performed over 100 times during Ormandy's tenure. The work was inspired by a Plainsong, a sequence for Whitsunday and the Octave of Pentecost in the Roman Liturgy. The Plainsong has five sections or sentences that have been put into a chorale setting, mainly for the string section of the orchestra. Near the end of the fourth section and throughout the fifth, other parts of the orchestra join in the chorale setting. The pungent, quiet, and reflective plainsong is introduced by an unaccompanied solo clarinet at the beginning by clarinetist Lubomir Lebenza. The harp cadenza is played by Dagmar Platilova.
Peter Saltzman has written extensively for dance and theater groups as well as for orchestra. He is very active in the Chicago musical scene and writes the following:
"I wrote Walls during a three-week period in December, 1995 and January, 1996. It was commissioned by Kevin Iega Jeff, choreographer of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, which premiered a synthesized version of the work in February, 1996. Like most of my large-scale works, this piece follows a design similar to the cyclical sonata-allegro form of the classical period: exposition, development, recapitulation. I do not impose 18th or 19th century structure on 20th century content. While there is certainly nothing wrong with emulating this formal clarity, I prefer form following content. In my case the content is the music which I heard and played during the early years of my development, i.e. jazz, pop, rock, rhythm and blues, etc. To extend these beyond song-forms, I have employed techniques similar to those of the classical era: motivic development, counterpoint, and variation.
The title and concept for Walls came from Kevin Iega Jeff. Throughout history, walls such as the Berlin Wall, the Western Wall, the Great Wall of China, the Viet Nam Memorial, have been a symbol of the divisive elements within a society. If the walls could talk, I wonder what they would say?"
|Paul Freeman (1936-2015)|
Paul Freeman has distinguished himself as one of the world's pre-eminent conductors. Much in demand, he has conducted over 100 orchestras in 28 different countries including the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and major orchestras in London, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Berlin. Maestro Freeman has served as the Music Director of Canada's Victoria Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic and Associate Conductor of the Detroit and Dallas Symphony Orchestras. He was Music Director of the renowned Chicago Sinfonietta and simultaneously served as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Prague. With over 300 recordings to his credit, he has won numerous awards for his unique interpretations of the classical, romantic, and modern repertoire. Dr. Freeman, who studied on a U.S. Fulbright Grant at the Hochschule in Berlin, holds a Ph.D. degree from the Eastman School of Music and LH.D. degrees from Dominican University and Loyola University.