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Reviews Sounds of America

‘Quiet City’ R Aldridge Sound Moves Blues a Barab Suite for Trumpet, Alto Saxophone and Piano b

Copland Quiet City (reconstr Brellochs) c

Hartley Lyric Suite d Lunde Soprano Saxophone Sonata, ‘Alpine’, Op 37 e

Ornstein Ballad f abc Christopher Brellochs, def Paul Cohen saxs ac Mitchell Kriegler cl/bcl bc Donald Batchelder tpt d Richard Auldon Clark va abcef Allison Brewster Franzetti, d Lois Anderon pfs Sono Luminus F DSL92135 (58’ • DDD) Copland’s irst thoughts form the centrepiece for a sax miscellany

The saxophone is so indelibly associated with jazz that we tend to forget that it was conceived as a concert instrument. On this new disc,

Christopher Brellochs and colleagues explore chamber music that places various saxophones in numerous lyrical and colourful contexts, without neglecting its singular ability to swing.

The disc’s title comes from Aaron Copland’s Quiet City, which is presented in its world-premiere recording in the original instrumentation for trumpet, clarinet/bass clarinet, alto saxophone and piano. Copland wrote the suite for a failed Irwin Shaw play in 1939, later reworking some of the music for trumpet, English horn and string orchestra. The original version is typical Copland Americana, with its lonely trumpet solo intact and titbits that show up later in his music for the film Our Town. In Brellochs’s reconstruction, the score sounds fresh and haunting, and the refined performance has a sense of discovery.

There are reasons beyond Copland to savour the disc. The saxophone – in soprano, alto and tenor incarnations – is either the protagonist or part of the team in other engaging works by American composers Robert Aldridge, Seymour Barab, Walter S Hartley, Lawson Lunde and Leo Ornstein. Aldridge’s invigorating Sound Moves Blues shows the alto saxophone in characteristic snazzy frame of mind, while Ornstein’s Ballad reveals the instrument’s ability to sing.

But everything here should appeal to listeners of either classical or jazz persuasions. Brellochs, a suave and elegant player, shares duties with another top-notch saxophonist, Paul Cohen, and peers who bring buoyant and atmospheric vibrancy to welcome repertoire. Donald Rosenberg www.gramophone.co.uk

Vibrancy: Katrina Thurman,

joined by Steven Ebel and

Thomas Meglioranza

Chailly: a Classicist through and through Chailly: a Classicist through and through

An opera that impresses for its tonal palette ON STAGE tunning sounds z z

Karchin Romulus Katrina Thurman sop............................... Martha Steven Ebel ten ................................ Frantz Wolf Thomas Meglioranza bar .......................Celestus Wilbur Pauley bass ..............Mayor Babenhausen Washington Square Ensemble / Louis Karchin Naxos S 8 669030 (71’ • DDD • T) On opera that faces obstacles on disc that perhaps didn’t trouble it on stage

Despite an impressive list of credentials that range from reviews by Andrew Porter and Alex Ross to numerous commissions from institutions including the Fromm and Koussevitzky foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts, Louis Karchin’s nominally comic opera from 2007, based on a play by Dumas père, suffers from a lack of immediacy as a recording that it presumably had live. Developed in collaboration with the American Opera Projects, which staged its premiere, Romulus tells a talky tale of relationships in an apartment in the Austrian Tyrol in the 19th century among academic types plus one 25-year-old woman facing, at least in the eyes of her brother, the dreaded state of old maidism. While the purely operatic aspects of Romulus may be fussy and largely unconvincing, Karchin’s instrumental palette is rich, varied and often stunning. The emotion that Karchin’s orchestration and instrumental effects produce, whether they be audiophile drums grabbing centre stage or chimes describing the more esoteric aspects of the dramatic argument, gives rise to moments of striking beauty and visceral excitement that inform and colour the opera. With a more suitable libretto, Karchin may have some potential as an opera composer.

The cast is led by soprano Katrina Thurman who soars, exclaims and declaims as necessary. Hers is a remarkably vibrant and flexible voice but her passionate advocacy for the part of Martha is not enough to overcome Romulus’s obstacles. The opera’s cause is not helped by the liner-notes, which weave Christian Carey’s self-conscious perspectives with Karchin’s comments and explanations that talk condescendingly of Mozart.

In sum, this is more a document than an important theatrical experience, especially on a CD where the visual components are forced to the sidelines. Laurence Vittes

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GRAMOPHONE AWARDS 2011 XIII