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CLASSICAL  October 2007

CLASSICAL October 2007

Subject:

Re: Svoboda Piano Concerti

From:

Scott Morrison <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 15 Oct 2007 12:00:37 -0700

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And while we're talking about Svoboda, here's a review I wrote some time
ago of a CD of his orchestral music.  The review is at

   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0000AQS7U/classicalnet

   A Winner!, September 6, 2003
   By
   Scott Morrison (Middlebury VT, USA)
   
   One of the joys of reviewing lots of classical CDs is the
   discovery of excellent music by composers one never heard of.
   That's the case here. Tomas Svoboda (b. 1939) was born in Paris
   of Czech parents, spent his early childhood in Boston, but
   returned to Czechoslovakia with his parents after the War and
   was admitted to the Prague Conservatory in 1954. He returned to
   the US in 1964, studied with Halsey Stevens and Ingolf Dahl at
   USC and for many years has been professor of composition at the
   Portland State University, retiring in the late 1990s. It is
   fitting that this program of his orchestral music is played by
   the Oregon Symphony under its long-time conductor, James DePreist.
   And brilliantly played it is.
   
   All of the music here is immediately attractive, written in a
   kind of tonal neo-classic style melded with the assymetric rhythms
   often associated with the followers of Stravinsky. None of the
   musical language is more advanced than, say, Bartok's 'Concerto
   for Orchestra.'
   
   The earliest piece, and in its way the most astonishing, is the
   Symphony No. 1, written and premiered in Prague under Vaclav
   Smetacek when the composer was a boy of sixteen. It is a stunningly
   assured four-movement piece of large proportions lasting 36
   minutes with only occasional moments of clumsiness. It is
   rhythmically alive, uses some Czech folk materials, but at moments
   has the sound of America's wide open spaces a la Aaron Copland,
   fitting because the symphony is subtitled 'Of Nature.'

   The most recent piece here is the Concerto for Marimba, written
   in 1993 for Oregon Symphony percussionist Niel DePonte, the
   expert soloist here. The concerto is a three-movement (Slow-Fast-Slow)
   work lasting about 26 minutes. The orchestration is masterful
   and inventive. A five-instrument 'keyboard' group consisting of
   piano, harp, celesta, orchestra bells and crotales placed on the
   stage close to the marimba soloist contribute shimmering and
   jazzy effects.

   The opening piece on the CD is reported to be Svoboda's most-played
   piece. Entitled 'Overture of the Season,' it was written in 1978
   and, again, premiered by the Oregon Symphony. It is an infectious
   celebratory 9-minute romp that introduced by raffish brass, often
   playing in the overlapping medodic lines made familiar by composers
   like Glass and Reich, but it has harmonic richness that mark it
   as something more than minimalist. Its rhythms are as catchy as
   they are complex. Its energy is a perfect concert opener and it
   is played by the Oregon Symphony with all the panache the score
   requires.
   
   I am delighted to make the acquaintance of the music of Tomas
   Svoboda and will look for more to investigate. I understand that
   there are recordings of two piano concertos, one of them by the
   composer, himself a fine pianist and listed as one of the
   orchestral keyboardists for the present recording.
   
   Heartily recommended.

Scott Morrison

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