The Louisville Orchestra was established in 1937 and its history has been wonderfully told in a 2010 documentary entitled, Music Makes a City. Since their founding they released about 150 LPs containing new and interesting music not available anywhere else. Many of those recordings have become available on the Albany CD label but the orchestra hasn’t released a new recording in about 30 years.
Along comes new music director, composer, clarinetist Teddy Abrams and now we are graced with a new recording on the Decca Gold label. Now for a reboot this release is somewhat conservative in it’s musical choices but that’s not to say it isn’t interesing. This recording, released also in commemoration of the orchestra’s 80th season, reflects a sincere effort to draw younger audiences to the concert hall.
This auspicious release contains as its opening Abrams’ Unified Field, a finely crafted four movement work that channels the late Aaron Copland and his ilk. It’s style is inflected with elements of jazz and other so called “vernacular” music but it incorporates those styles in much the way that Copland and his contmporaries incorporated folk song as well as jazz/pop rhythms. It is virtually a symphony in its dimensions and is highly entertaining while remaining seriously classical and very finely crafted. The year of it’s composition is not specified in the notes this writer received but best guess is that it is of recent vintage in this talented composer’s oeuvre.
This is followed, curiously, by three torch songs, one by the able soloist Storm Large, one by Cole Porter, and one by Teddy Abrams. The stylistic unity of these three songs is striking and Storm Large (who is known for her work with Pink Martini) is a convincing chanteuse.
These are followed by another American masterpiece, the Clarinet Concerto (1948) by Aaron Copland. Originally written (and subsequently recorded by) Benny Goodman, the concerto is definitely in the repertoire but receives far too few hearings in concert. This writer had not heard the concerto in many years and was struck both by its quality and by the convincing performance recorded here. Abrams takes the solo role and the orchestra is conducted with assurance by one Jason Seber.
Abrams’ reading is as convincing and authentic as any and this is a delightful way to close this wonderful recording. Here’s hoping that this release will be the restart of Louisvilled great recorded legacy and that Abrams tenure as conductor will breath new life into an orchestra which has become a venerable part of America’s cultural history.