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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Newton D. Strandberg, Essays and Sketches

There are living composers creating work right now, all over the world. Some follow a particular footpath, some blaze new trails, some expand the traditions in different ways, others prefer to keep to the well-trodden ways of making music.

Newton D. Strandberg, American composer, is one who expands on the modernist tradition, judging from his retrospective CD Essays and Sketches (Ravello 7840). He's been for a long time a member of the faculty at Sam Houston State University.

Four works comprise the program of this CD: three in the orchestral/chamber orchestral zone, "Essay for Orchestra," "Amenhotep III," and "Acts for Orchestra." Then there is his "String Trio."

In all the works (which by the way receive quite reasonably good performances by various ensembles) you hear a combination of a sort of "thickened" lyricism that has the bite of the modern and a driving motor-pulsation that in its own way plays off of the rhythmic complexities given so forcefully to us in Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." That is to say that Strandberg often creates complex landscapes of rhythmically bracing music.

The String Trio on the other hand is a piece of inspired strength and dissonance that stands in a rather different relation to modern tradition.

In any case Maestro Strandberg works with his own vocabulary throughout to create music of beauty, excitement and depth.

I found much to listen to with keen interest on this disk. Newton D. Strandberg is no lightweight. Modernists take heed.

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