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"...and the eagle flies..."

Cover Photo: Galen Rowell/Mountain Light

Available at your favorite digital etailers
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Catalog Number: CPS-8634
Audio Format: Stereo, DDD
Playing Time: 57:22
Release Date: 1997

Track Listing & Audio Samples
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    Richard Brooks
Seascape: Overture to Moby Dick (12:11)
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    Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Joel Eric Suben, conductor
    Elizabeth Austin
  2. Wilderness Symphony (19:00)
    Cracow Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra
    Symon Kawalla, conductor
    Richard Brooks
  3. Landscape...with Grace (11:20)
    Kent Philharmonia Orchestra
    Lynn Asper, conductor
    F. DiArta Angeli
  4. Sta Pestá (14:51)
    Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Joel Eric Suben, conductor



Related Links
Elizabeth Scheidel-Austin @ American Music Center
Elizabeth Scheidel-Austin @ Abilene Christian University
F. DiArta-Angeli @ OperaGreca.com



New Music Connoiseur - Volume 5 Number 3 - by B.L.C.

"With so much to say and so few resources around (particularly orchestral resources) to give them a hearing, American composers must be thankful to the likes of Richard Brooks and the mere handful of serious new-music entrepreneurs in the record business. Of course Brooks has given himself an outlet for his own orchestral work, as in this album, but let us grant him credit for all of the CDs he has produced championing the work of many living composers.

Elizabeth Austin has been one of them. The album title is taken from Carl Sandburgs poem Wilderness, which is the basis for her strong assertive 19-minute work. Its probably unlike what Sandburg, always the folk poet, had intended, but her human concerns are deep and they infiltrate her musical ideas. A solo violin is heard in the opening and near the end spelling out a 4-note atonal phrase from which emerge variations representing the seven creatures within humankind. For example, There is a fox in me, brings on a bluegrass banjo strum, a sly tribute to the poet, also an avid folk guitarist. All of these animals (wolf, hog, fish, baboon, eagle and mockingbird) comprise a zoo "buried in the shallow grave of the ego," the composer writes. Although the animalistic urges are treated head on, in the final "red valve heart" section, Ms. Austin's music is sanguine: "We hope to achieve transcendence over [our] animalistic urges." But yet another contradictory element underscores the work -- the will to live, suggested by a recurring quote from Stravinsky, the repeated sevenths accompanying the ghost of Petrouchka.

The performance by the Cracow Radio & Television Symphony under Symon Kawalla is splendid -- beautifully balanced and attentive to details. The two reciters (and intoners at the very end), Melinda Liebermann and Anthony King, take opportunities to stress the poet's lines in a sardonic way. That sort of expression makes the words sound more alive and closer to the tone of this wilderness than what we might expect, knowing the all too down-to-earth manner in which readers, including Sandburg himself, tend to read his poetry.

The thematic element of the natural world is picked up by Brooks in his two tone poems. Seascape is subtitled Overture to Moby Dick and is actually the prelude and epilogue to the composer's opera based on the Melville novel. A fresh listener may immediately find the piece comparable in power and spaciousness to Wagner's famed operatic seascape, and Brooks convinces us he has his own ideas about setting the stage for such a massive literary work. The vastness of the sea is there, as well as the tragic climax of Captain Ahab's quest. And just to impress us with his emotional range, he is able to paint a quiet landscape of Western Michigan using "Amazing Grace" as the sinewy thread of his second selection. Well, maybe the music does sound a bit like Wagner's Forest Murmurs and has a distinctly European sound much of the time, but the great American Protestant hymn eventually takes over to cap the work in a blaze of spiritual glory.

Putting Mr. Angeli's overlong (14+ min.) piece in an album with an overriding theme seems to us a bit of a stretch. Sta Pestá is described as a "programmatic symphonic tableau depicting the natural scenee and events during a festive day" somewhere in the mountains of Southwestern Europe (our Italics). But one gets little sense of the natural scene upon hearing it. Between passages depicting a procession, punctuated by loud symbol crashes, are a couple of quieter moments, perhaps meant as reflections upon nature. All in all, however, the composition is poorly structured and orchestrated and Mr. Angelis apparent lack of training he is said to be self-taught is betrayed, though Mr. Suben and the Slovak Radio S.O. try hard to give it import. Mr. Angeli ought to study with Mr. Brooks, or at least listen to his Grace to see how to build on a folk theme. Surely, there are many, many fine composers around whose thoughts on nature could have rounded off this disc far more effectively.

Still, this is a worthwhile CD with acceptable, if not great sonics. Keep 'em coming."


IAWM - Winter, 1998

"Elizabeth Austin’s stunning Wilderness Symphony translates Carl Sandburg’s poem by the same name form words into the language of music as a brilliant sound tableau–deep, penetrating, and haunting. Comprised of seven stanzas, Wilderness is one of Sandburg’s so-called "musings" or introspective, dreamy poems on the subject of existence. The poem imagines a world before culture, before oppressive government: a true state of nature, one that Thomas Hobbes might have described as a war of every man against every man. Sandburg, too, envisions this mysterious time before we marked time. Animals stalk the planet: the fox, wolf, baboon, fish, eagle and mockingbird are vestiges of this primeval condition, capable of great evil and sublime goodness. Austin composes glorious music to accompany this state of nature. "We have a wilderness within us," Austin explains in the liner notes to her newly recorded symphony.

The work opens with a five-minute introduction featuring trombone flourishes and spiky percussion. Austin’s writing is linear and piercing. A streamlined violin soars above the bubbling action of col legno dabs, high-hat hellos and clucking percussion. This is not the pastoral world of Appalachian Spring. Austin’s is an imaginary place – in many ways a much more honest one.

In the second stanza describing the wolf, Austin demonstrates her wit and imagination by introducing the banjo in a bluegrass quotation of Foggy Mountain Breakdown. She describes it as an "intentional homage to Sandburg’s love of folklore." Each succeeding stanza, recited alternately by a male and female voice, speaks to different animals that rage within each of us, as in "There is a hog in me." The "fish" section, recited by a female voice, features harp glissandi and dancing figuration. The "baboon" music is highlighted by short, punch motives and descending sequences. Verses 6 and 7 depict the soaring eagle and the intrepid mockingbird with a recollection of Stravinsky’s Petroushka for good measure.

The piece culminates in the last verse with a setting of the evocative "O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, Inside my ribs." Here is the reunion of emotion and experience. For the only time in the piece, reciters burst into a unison melody with the words "I sing and kill and work." For this thoroughly dramatic moment, Austin keeps the voices singing together to end the poem: "I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness." The cries of the animals subside and the piece concludes with a short coda.

Austin’s symphony is just that: a sonorous landscape of individualistic sounds that blend beautifully together. At first, headstrong melodies battle for recognition, but by the end they coalesce into a common existence. Austin’s great gift in this piece is the meaning she composes in Sandburg’s verbal blank spaces, executing lush, charismatic music during the poem’s idiosyncratic ellipses and breaks between stanzas."

Turok’s Choice - by Paul Turok

"Three discs present music by members of the "Society of Composers." Most teach, and with performances from many a provenance and in varying states of sonic balance, the discs undoubtedly represent part of the "publish or perish" syndrome. One contains songs (with varied instrumental combinations) by Dinos Constantinides, Elizabeth Lauer and others – undistinguished, but not embarrassing (CPS-8632). The other presents a sprightly chamber concerto (for piano) by Charles Argersinger and an extremely imaginative handling of violin and taped sounds, Harmonizer, by Daniel McCarthy, along with less successful efforts by others (CPS-8639). An ambitious project offers orchestral works by Richard Brooks, Elizabeth Austin and F. DiArta-Angeli (CPS-8634). All open promisingly, but turn lugubrious. None finishes convincingly."