Contemporary Works For Orchestra

A compilation of orchestral works from 4 different contemporary composers from the United States and England.

The inspiration for these pieces is incredibly diverse, spanning from the 1997 Hale-Bopp comet to the American folk-song “Goodbye Old Paint”, making for a challenging and interesting album.

Time of the comet

by Lionel Sainsbury

performed by the Moravian Philharmonic – Petr Vronský, conductor


A sparkly introduction, introduced by the trumpets, lays the ground for a brisk full orchestra section, followed by calmer and warm second theme. I can imagine myself looking at the Hale-Bopp comet lying down in a wide grassland somewhere in Sussex.

The whole piece, tonal, certainly sounds British: in his own personal language, Mr. Sainsbury doesn’t forget his own roots and the fabric of British symphonic music that had one of his champions in Vaughan Williams, while throwing in the mix American influences and a polished orchestration that reminds of Dutilleux.

Reflective thought patterns

by Clive Muncaster

performed by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra – Robert Ian Winstin, conductor
The brass choral gives a very warm feeling to the opening of this piece: it’s like a comforting blanket that I can wrap around myself while sipping a hot cocoa in the middle of the winter. The brass leave room to the woodwinds, to the percussions and eventually to the French horn.

This work is, as the title suggests, built on patterns: it’s not a surprise then that a fugue-like section made its way into it.

Pattern upon pattern I discovered inner and outer ones, like the use of a reverse order of the material presented in the first half to circularly (and almost mathematically) close the piece in the second half.


Among the hidden

by Patricia Julien

performed by the Moravian Philharmonic – Petr Vronský, conductor


3 notes from the piano, repeated obsessively, introduce a charmingly melancholic theme. The strings dominate most of this work, with warm melodies and delicate nuances, while the piano comes back regularly with its three repeating notes.

I love the contrast that this piece creates with the other works in the album. At the same time, the piece in itself is full of contrasting sections, from cheerful to sad, brisk and luscious (especially in the string section) which make for a very pleasant listening.


Fastidious notes

by J.A. Kawarsky

performed by the Chicago Arts Orchestra – Javier Mendoza conductor, Jonathan Helton alto saxophone


The last piece of the album draws from the American folklore, and from one song in particular: “Goodbye Old Paint”. The fastidious notes of the title refer to an “extra beat” in the bar: the piece is mainly written in 5/4, drawing the ear to an unusual metric for folk songs.

The folk song is really used as an excuse to build a sax concerto movement on it, packed with a cadenza. By the way, Jonathan Helton does a great job with the challenging alto sax part.

Cohesive and well orchestrated, this piece works perfectly as a closing of the album which, in its entirety, offers a very appealing variety of styles and moods.

Prisma released on February 9th, 2018 for Navona Records and it’s available on all major music channels as well as Amazon.

What’s your take on this album?

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