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Thursday, May 3, 2012

William Bolcom, Complete Gospel Preludes

William Bolcom can be counted upon to compose music that brings a certain personal approach to the table. In the lineage of Charles Ives and those that came after, Bolcom often utilizes the music around him or a part of his heritage and transforms it to make a personal compositional statement that is American in a stubborn sort of rugged individualistic way.

And so on his Complete Gospel Preludes for organ (Naxos 8.559695), in a nicely done new recording by Gregory Hand, he calls on the blues, gospel, hymn tunes and other things besides to create a series of preludes that bear his personal stamp.

It's cathedral organ music in the grand tradition, dynamic, big, vibrant, and yet it is also a somewhat eccentric take on both the hymns and the prelude form. He interjects dissonances, alters the songs to suit his particular inventive fancy, reharmonizes, stretches, rethinks, juxtiposes alongside avant elements and generally remakes in his own compositional image.

If in the course of all this the music is lively, fun, and a bit irreverent in ways uniquely Bolcomian. You would never expect anything less of the man.

These are not quite like anything else and yet the spirit of Charles Ives, himself for a time the organist of a church in Manhattan years ago, is honored while forwarding the very singular post-modernism of Bolcom himself.


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