Bassett/Bolcom/Daugherty | Michael Daugherty, composer

Equilibrium Records/February 2004


Spaghetti Western
Harold Smoliar, English horn
University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra
Kenneth Kiesler conductor



I heard William Bolcom’s Lyric Concerto in London a little over a decade ago when James Galway, with the Saint Louis Symphony and Leonard Slatkin, gave what must have been the UK premiere of a then virtually new work. I thought it was a terrific piece, and this recording confirms that first impression. Typical of Bolcom, there’s a range of derivation—but he makes it his own: the deftly detailed scampering opening movement with a burgeoning melodic idea; then a colorful waltz pastiche that yields to something more reflective; a slow, atmospheric movement called “Memory” that marries flute technicalities with peripheral sounds; and a varied finale that includes recall to Dizzy Gillespie (who died while Bolcom was writing the work). The whole work is entertaining, inventive, and enjoyably unpredictable. Maybe someone will record Bolcom’s Symphony No. 6 now. I wait to hear No. 7 too.

Spaghetti Western” films motivated Michael Daugherty’s English horn concerto. Musically this translates into a score dominated by atmosphere and image suggestion. It’s reasonably effective, the English horn showcased on its own terms and in masquerade; for example, a mouth organ is implied in the first movement. Whether the work quite adds up beyond its parts is another matter.

Leslie Bassett (born 1923) composed his one-movement alto sax concerto in 1999. It lasts just under 18 minutes. It’s a piece of serious endeavor, the saxophone used expressively…

Excellent performances and sound; the Bassett and Daugherty pieces feature the original soloists…Each composer provides a note, and there are numerous photographs from the sessions, the three composers gracing the cover.

– Colin Anderson

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