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The Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra and conductor Reuben Blundell release American Discoveries, a continuation of their series of promoting previously unrecorded orchestral repertoire. This collection features music by three female composers: Priscilla Alden Beach, Linda Robbins Coleman, and Alexandra Pierce.

Priscilla Alden Beach’s City Trees reflects her studies at Eastman School of Music in the 1920’s and more specifically the influence of composition mentor Howard Hanson. The work is in a ternary form, with languid outer sections and a heroic internal più mosso. Beach’s writing is evocative and colorful, painting vivid scenes with lush orchestration.

Linda Robbins Coleman’s Copland-esque For A Beautiful Land is an homage both to her home state of Iowa but also a general paean to the natural world. Heroic, expansive gestures are contrasted by playful sections featuring sections of the orchestra. The overall tone is extroverted, alternating between rhapsodic and rhythmically taut material.

Alexandra Pierce’s five movement Behemoth is the most ambitious work in this collection. A tone poem that utilizes the rich colors of the orchestra to their fullest effect, Behemoth is inspired by the Book of Job from the Old Testament, and by humanity’s struggle with existence. The first movement features ominous textures framed by dark harmonies and insistent snare drum punctuations. The second movement is scherzo-like, with short gestures on the temple block imitating passagework in the orchestra. The work’s only slow movement is the third, a melancholy unfolding of melodic ideas that are split between the oboe and horn. The short fourth movement fuses the temple block and snare drum material from the first and second movements, creating anticipation by keeping the pitched instruments mostly at bay before the final movement. The fifth and last movement takes an unexpected turn towards the burlesque, placing much of the melodic material in the bass instruments. Instead of resolving the built up tension that has accumulated throughout the work, Pierce chooses instead to layer it with subtle sardonic humor, closing this piece in a cloud of ambiguity.

Throughout, Blundell leads the Lansdowne Symphony admirably, coaxing vibrant colors and spirited playing from the group. This collection continues Blundell’s admirable work advocating for corners of the American orchestral legacy that have not been exhaustively explored.

– Dan Lippel

credits

released May 21, 2021

Recorded at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, Drexel Hill, PA
November 2, 2019 (Beach)
December 7, 2019 (Coleman)
February 4, 2020 (Pierce)

Producer: Reuben Blundell

Engineer: Chris Gately

Editing & Mastering: Zach Herchen

Program Notes: Reuben Blundell, Linda Robbins Coleman

Graphic Design: Masataka Suemitsu

Artwork: Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts, The River at Concord

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New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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