Saturday, November 26, 2011

Music of Andrew Imbrie and Cecil Effinger

Someone asked me the other day if I had a violin concerto in the works and well, here is not another Beethoven, Mendelssohn or Tchaikovsky but the seldom heard, if heard at all, concerto by American composer Andrew Imbrie. Paired with it is the delightful little "classical type" symphony of Cecil Effinger. Both of the works on this disc were Naumberg award winners and they are given persuasive performances by Carroll Glenn and Zoltan Rozsnyai. The orchestra is Columbia's "house band," the Columbia Symphony Orchestra though I have my suspicions that it is really the NYPO or maybe the LA Phil in disguise.

Andrew Imbrie was  a teacher of composition and theory at the University of California-Berkeley for some 42 years. His two main sources of compositional influence were Bartok and Roger Sessions. Imbrie's writing uses atonality balanced with a strong respect for the melodic line so his compositions are quite listenable and engaging. At some 40+ minutes, this violin concerto harks back to the format of the 19th century though the sounds and phrasings are very mid 20th century. Carroll Glenn proves the ideal soloist as she weaves her lines beautifully in and out of the orchestral colors. Rozsnyai, an underrated conductor but for a time a well recorded one, provides sensitive and balanced accompaniment. A wonderful work and collaboration.

Cecil Effinger too, was a teacher of composition for some 40 years at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  His Little Symphony for some reason reminds me of Prokofiev's masterpiece as it looks back to a time not so distant but far enough away. The music language is reminiscent of Roy Harris and Don Gillis making this work immediately accessible. I think it would be a delightful opening work on a symphony program.

I've come into possession of a number of  these Columbia Special Products issues of American music recently. A pleasant reminder of when the majors invested in the creative artists of the United States.