Review by Colin Clarke
N. SCHWARTZ Aspirations 1 . Perspectives 2 . Romanza 3 . Angels Among Us 4 . BROADSTOCK Made in Heaven • Kevin Purcell, cond; 3 Dimitrie Leivici (vn); 1 Harry Allen (ten sax); 4 Mat Jodrell (tpt); 2 Jon Delaney (gtr); 1,2 Lee Musiker (pn); 2 Bratislava Studio SO; 1 Synchron Stage O Vienna • DIVINE ART 25165 (67:20)
Los Angeles-based composer Nan Schwartz has been multiply nominated for Grammys and Emmys. Her pedigree is impeccable: Her father played with the Glenn Miller band and her mother worked with the likes of Tommy Dorsey as well as being a studio singer for legendary names such as Sinatra and Dean Martin. Schwartz herself has worked on films such as Life of Pi and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One. Excerpts of her work can be found at her website, nanschwartz.com.
The present disc presents four of her works. Schwartz names Ravel, Walton, and Shostakovich as her principal musical loves, and certainly there is a Ravelian lushness (and expertise) to her scoring. Premiered in 1984, Aspirations frequently evokes a dream-state. The performance is magnificent. Conductor Kevin Purcell has a fine ear for sonority, and supporting that, the recording is demonstration standard, with great perspective. The long tenor sax solo is expertly done by Harry Allen.
Initial hints of Copland are soon subsumed into a more mysterious argument in Perspectives, a title that refers to the multi-functionality of notes themselves in certain situations; a reflection of this is the multiple perspectives people have on a variety of issues. The guitar solo, played in wonderfully laid-back fashion by Jon Delaney, is superb, owing much to Pat Metheny. The piece Romanza has a pronounced solo violin part, here sweetly delivered by the Romanian Dimitrie Johann Leivici, who has freelanced in the Hollywood Studios since 1977.
Receiving its first performance on this disc, the tone poem Angels Among Us is actually a commissioned work for a specific occasion; unfortunately, the event itself was not to be, but the work remains. The title refers to those unseen forces that may help us to keep us on track in life (the angels of the title, and our guides, perhaps). There is a sense of space around this piece as well as mystery. There’s no missing the filmic basis to the aspirational brass melodies, but throughout it is the sensational solo trumpet of Mat Jodrell. Jodrell’s legato is impeccable, his sense of line faultless and, in the unaccompanied solo towards the end of the piece, his registral command is beyond criticism. He moves from the top end of the trumpet’s range to the very bottom with perfect ease.
The 2009 (revised 2013) piece Made in Heaven by Australian composer Brenton Broadstock is designated as a “Concerto for Orchestra”; it receives its premiere recording here. It is also a musical tribute to the jazz recording Kind of Blue (a disc whose line-up included Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans). The four movements are each inspired by one of the tracks on Kind of Blue (“So What”; “Flamenco Sketches”; “Blue in Green”; and “All Blues,” in that order), while the title of Broadstock’s work comes from the liner notes to Kind of Blue. While “So What” may be decidedly unsettled, “Flamenco Sketches” finds repose in its outer sections (which house a more extrovert Spanish-style dance). The stillness of “Blue in Green” is however less settled; the peace of “Flamenco Sketches” was clearly illusory. There is huge, heart-rending beauty in this movement before the swirling opening of “All Blues” marks the onset of the headlong finale that ends in a blaze of light.
Two recording venues were used, one in Austria, the other in Slovakia, and the technical excellence of the recording is consistent throughout. There is also, it should be noted, a lot of fun to be had here. Colin Clarke