LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  February 2010

CLASSICAL February 2010

Subject:

Music by Robert Ward

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 24 Feb 2010 18:27:28 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (106 lines)

Robert Ward

*  Quintet for oboe and string quartet
*  Raleigh Divertimento for nonet
*  Bath County Rhapsody for piano and string quartet
*  Arioso and Tarantelle for viola and piano
*  First Symphony

Joseph Robinson, oboe
Ciompi Quartet
Czech Nonet
Jane Hawkins, piano
Jonathan Bagg, viola
Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra/Alan Balter
Albany TROY1063  Total time: 67:36

Summary for the Busy Executive: On again, off again.

At one time, Robert Ward ranked as one of the fair-haired younger
American composers, a future bright light.  He studied with Hanson and
Rogers at Eastman and with Jacobi at Juilliard.  Even his student works
appeared in major venues.  The highpoint of his composing career occurred
in 1961, with the premiere of his opera, The Crucible, for which he
received a Pulitzer.  Unfortunately, American music moved another way.
Ward's idiom, essentially the neoclassicism regnant between the world
wars, younger composers regarded as played out.  Post-Webernian serialists
(and Elliott Carter) rose as temporary kings of the hill.  The search
for an "American" musical idiom was seen as corny, and composers aimed
to become "international." At this point, serious critics have pretty
much written Ward off, but even so, he had a fairly late run.  By 1955,
such critics were sniffing at the likes of Piston, Diamond, and interwar
Copland.

After The Crucible, Ward never made as big a splash, although he
continued to compose (including five more operas).  In fact, his Grove
entry has him dead in 1994 -- a neat trick, since he has produced new
work since then.  To some extent, one can explain this by his moving
from New York, where the arts receive the most critical attention, to
North Carolina, where he became Chancellor of the North Carolina School
of the Arts and, later, a professor at Duke University.  However, the
high inspiration that fired so many of his early works sputtered in fits
and starts in the later.  In general, the music fizzled out, although
here and there you could still find a late live firecracker.  This CD
presents a fair picture, I think, of Ward's career, early and late, risky
and safe.

I'll take the safe stuff first.  The oboe quintet (2005) constitutes
a well-written bore, hardly worth the trouble and a long way from the
quartets of William Schuman and Peter Mennin, Ward's rough contemporaries.
It's a "sociable" quartet, as opposed to a spiritual autobiography, like
many of the Haydns but lacking the genius.  In 1991, Bath County, Virginia,
commissioned the Bath County Rhapsody (1991).  They wanted a piece of
music that told the history of the place.  Ward writes that he accepted
the job since he couldn't think of a programmatic chamber work off the
top of his head.  He came up with essentially a movie score: the mists
of times past, the discovery of the place by the Native Americans, the
arrival of the white settlers, the Civil War, a final mountaineer's
celebration, and a final return to those old-timey mists.  While the
work has its moments, in general it shows Ward's invention at a very low
point.  The music for the Indians comes directly from "Injun" music in
Thirties B and C cowboy pictures.

On the other hand, in 1997, the Raleigh, North Carolina, Chamber Music
Guild engaged Ward to write the Raleigh Divertimento, which the composer
made originally for the Aspen Quintet.  Later, the famed Czech Nonet
asked him for a work they could play on an American tour, so he reworked
the piece for that group.  I have heard the very nice original, but the
nonet is a honey.  Springy and athletic, like the Piston and Martinu
works in the genre, it harbors no program; Ward has merely made a handsome
neoclassical object, and of course beauty is its own excuse for being.

The 1955 Arioso and Tarantelle Ward composed in memory of the conductor
Hans Kindler, who had fostered Ward's early career.  I had heard this
in a cello-and-piano version, and it didn't impress me then.  However,
this was probably due to the performance, because violist Jonathan Bagg
and pianist Jane Hawkins give this little work its due.  The Aria owes
much to Hindemith.  Indeed, a great deal of Ward's slow-and-solemn
movements do; he seems to regard it as the coin of High Seriousness.
However, one senses a character behind the notes warmer than Hindemith's
and feels that Ward has expressed a personal loss.

Ward produced his official First Symphony, and it received its first
professional performance under Kindler and the National Symphony, while
Ward was still a student at Juilliard.  A short, compact work of about
thirteen minutes, it betrays its student origins mostly in its structure.
Each of its three movements follows the same formal strategy: two subjects,
developed separately, and combined in the recap.  The harmony again
derives from Hindemith, but Ward lacks Hindemith's formal and contrapuntal
virtuosity.  Still, the work insists on and rewards a listener's attention.
One can easily see why people expected great things from the young
composer.  It has an intensity that the oboe quintet and the Bath County
Rhapsody lack.

The performances are quite fine, with the Czech Nonet outstanding in
the Raleigh Divertimento.  The symphony is marred by a bass hum and what
sounds like overprinting -- that is, a series of after-echoes in the
lull after a large climax.  I didn't think this was possible in digital
recording, but there you are.

Steve Schwartz

             ***********************************************
The CLASSICAL mailing list is powered by L-Soft's renowned LISTSERV(R)
list management software together with L-Soft's HDMail High Deliverability
Mailer for reliable, lightning fast mail delivery.  For more information,
go to:  http://www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager