Audio Format: CD
Playing Time: 72:57
Release Date: 2003
Track Listing1-3 Concierto Encantado (20:38)
American Record Guide
This release of the guitar works of Iowa-based composer Alan Schmitz is arranged in reverse chronological order. We this hear his most recent guitar work, the neo-tonal Concierto Encantado of 2002, first, before proceeding backwards in time to his more austere essays in serialism and atonality.
I am surprised to hear myself say it, but I like the Coplandesque concerto the best of all the works here. It is perhaps too long, but it has some memorable themes based on Hispanic folk songs of New Mexico, one chromatic elaboration of the somber theme in II is particularly gorgeous. Before we get to the 12-tone asceticism of the earliest works, there is one more very conservative tonal piece, a set of variations on the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. Guitarist Seelye plays this pretty but inconsequential duo on two tracks. In a nice programming touch, soprano Celeste Bembry first sings the spiritual a cappella, to get the theme into our ears.
Of the remaining works, the guitar and trumpet duo of 1982 is the most appealing, if only because of the enriched tonal palette that the trumpet provides.
Guitarist Seelye is a new music specialist who has collaborated with many important figures, including John Adams, Milton Babbit, and Charles Wuorinen. His playing is precise and controlled, but it lacks passion, dynamic range, and tonal contrasts. He plays a guitar built by John Gilbert, and the recorded sound confirms the way I’ve always felt about these instruments; they may be fun to play, but from the listener’s perspective the sound is strangely rubbery and without body. In the austere “constructivist” works here, Seelye’s rather clinical approach works well enough, but in the more heart on sleeve tonal works, the playing is a bit too staid and emotionally detached.
The sound is quite good, though the digital reverb sometimes sounds a little too artificial. Trumpeter Grabowski and the orchestral ensemble led by Burkhardt turn in solid attractive performances.