Until Divine Art Recording Group sent a copy of a CD of Nan Schwartz’ music and that of Australian composer Brenton Broadstock, I had never heard of either composer, both of which are featured in a handsomely designed and annotated CD of original works for symphony orchestra.
Nan Schwartz has worked for years as a much in demand arranger of music for film and TV, and her compositions evidence her prowess as an orchestrator. In her own notes on the recording she acknowledges William Walton, Maurice Ravel, and Dmitri Shostakovich – all three composers who, like Ms. Schwartz wrote for film, as favorite influences. Indeed, in the opening bars of Aspirations there are hints of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, and at the turn of the corner there is a tenor sax given a soulful reading by Harry Allen that is unpredictably and simply pure jazz.
In Perspectives, Nan Schwartz briefly flirts with polytonality, creating initially a conversation for Jon Delaney’s guitar and Lee Musiker’s keyboard which then breaks out into an up tempo. In Romanza, the elegant Dimitrie Leivice is featured in a sweeping violin solo. In Angels Among Us, the lengthiest of the four tracks, the composer gives the terrific trumpet player Mat Jodrell a soliloquy against a backdrop of obstinato figures from strings and woodwinds. A juxtaposing of tempi, dynamics, tonality, and the alternating of soloist and ensemble give much of Nan Schwartz’s appealing music a uniquely sui generis sound.
Neither ‘classical’ nor jazz the music of Brenton Broadstock is most intriguing and in no way derivative, even though on first and then a second hearing I kept hearing riffs that reminded me of some of Duke Ellington’s larger works and passages with echoes of some of Max Steiner’s film music. But let me be clear, as evidenced by this album, this composer is a true original who succeeds in this for him rare foray outside the world of the concert hall.
Commissioned by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 2009, Made in Heaven – Concerto for Orchestra shuns the traditional concerto structure opting instead for a tone poem structure that divides the work into four separately-titled movements: So What, Flamenco Sketches, Blue in Green, and All Blues.
The superb Bratislava Studio Symphony Orchestra, magisterially conducted by Kevin Purcell, who also helms the Synchron Stage Orchestra of Vienna in the first four tracks of the CD, plays Broadstock’s and Schwartz’s eminently tonal, richly melodic music with the same care it would give a Beethoven symphony.
Hats off to the composers, the conductor, and the musicians of both orchestras!
Rafael de Acha