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"Tonus Tomis..."

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Catalog Number: CPS-8627
Audio Format: Stereo, DDD
Playing Time: 76:34
Release Date: 1995

Track Listing & Audio Samples
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    Leo Kraft
  1. Variations for Orchestra (22:16)
    Daniel Kessner
Lyric Piece for Piano and Orchestra (15:13)
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    Dolly Eugenio Kessner, piano
    Richard Brooks
  3. Chorale Variations for Two Horns and String Orchestra (13:05)
    Ronald Mazurek
  4. Alleluia for Chamber Orchestra and Tape (9:58)
    Dinos Constantinides
  5. Symphony No. 4 - Antigone (15:22)
    Ode I
    Ode III



American Record Guide - by Cook

"This a collection of excellent orchestral pieces by contemporary American composers that were performed at the 1994 Constanta International Music Days festival (though this is not, much to its credit, a performance recording). Constanta is a Romanian city on the Black Sea that used to be called Tomis-hence the title.

The recorded sound tends to be brassy and biased toward the high end, but in many ways that contributes accidentally to the music's charm. Because of the recorded sound, Leo Kraft's Variations for Orchestra, the longest work here at 22 minutes, sounds like the ancient Howard Hanson LP of Roy Harris's 3rd Symphony. Kraft's Variations aren't really a knock-off of Harris's musical style, but it does sound wonderfully reminiscent of 1930s American romanticism. It alone is worth the price of admission, whatever you might think of Roy Harris.

Daniel Kessner's Lyric Piece for Piano and Orchestra also appears to be a Roy Harris-inspired piece, but Kessner adroitly moves his piano sequences through off-key variations centering around the note A-flat. (Few American composers of the 1930s would dare do such a thing.) That makes the composition post-modern but not arrogant and disaffecting. Kessner knows how to keep his music tethered to a basic tonality, but at times I did wish for a stronger, more focussed orchestra. At the very least, this piece goes a long way to recommend the other works of this composer.

The Chorale Variations for Two Horns and String Orchestra by Richard Brooks is a much more contemporary piece, the string orchestra guiding the horn duets along with a series of chordal motifs. Brooks also highlights a separate quintet of solo strings, which manages to stand out from the regular string orchestra. The temperament of this work is very post-modern and intense. To the conductor's credit (or perhaps the sound engineers) the two horns are kept in check and do not dominate. Also of delight is a lament sequence for the string orchestra right in the middle of the work that's nicely twisted-as if the composer in the process of constructing the first draft of the composition decided to suck on a lemon for a few bars. Very nice and very unexpected.

Ronald Mazurek's Alleluia for Chamber Orchestra and Tape is a more atmospheric piece. It's something of a dreamscape or a "misremembered" recollection of a Gregorian chant. The tape of electronic effects is juxtaposed with various dialogs of the soloists in the orchestra. The Alleluia chant surfaces from time to time, grounding the piece in a solid tonality.

Finally, Dinos Constantinides's Symphony 4, Antigone closes the disc. It's one of many orchestral suites he's extracted from his 1993 opera, Antigone. Its musical language is very similar to Leo Kraft's. They make excellent bookends. As in the Kraft piece, you'll hear touches of Roy Harris as well as those Eastman-Rochester recordings that brought mainstream American romanticism to the public's attention. That this whole affair is the product of a Romanian orchestra and a Romanian conductor seems all the more remarkable, since it seems to be an unabashed celebration of American music. An interesting and valuable collection."


Turok's Choice - May, 1996 - by Paul Turok

"The Constanta Symphony (Romania) barely seems able to get through orchestral works by Leo Kraft, Dinos Constantinides and others, making it difficult to write reasonably about the music."