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A Celebration

Artist: Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson - A Celebration CD
Label: Cedille
Regular Price: $17.95
On Sale For: $8.98 
Year: 2005
Format: CD


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African-American composer Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson was a unique voice among contemporary musicians, and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration is a fitting tribute to his memory, outstandingly well played and recorded. Following his death at age 71 by a little less than two years, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration is the first comprehensive release of any kind relating to the music of Perkinson. The works span a 50-year period between his Sinfonietta for Strings of 1954, composed when Perkinson was 22, and the Movement for String Trio, quite literally written by Perkinson in his deathbed. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration makes clear that Perkinson sought, and achieved, a seamless blend between African-American musical concepts and Western concert music that is serious and not at all "folksy." Perkinson remained true to his musical roots and key interests throughout his long career as a musician and composer, which unintentionally made him a fish out of water in an era devoted to the advancement of formal academic concepts. The early Sinfonietta is intriguing, as its three movements map out some of his primary influences in contemporary music; namely Hindemith, Barber, and Bartók, in that order. Yet while the piece derives, it does not sound derivative, and establishes preferences for harmonic combinations reflecting jazz and blues, dynamic rhythmic ideas, and a strong lyrical tendency. As the listener progresses through the chronology of Perkinson's life work, the European influences are fully absorbed, although the example of Johann Sebastian Bach is a constant and particularly felt in the works written toward the end of his life. While harmonic toughness is part of Perkinson's profile, he does not allow this aspect of his personality to dominate the other elements within the music, emphasizing clarity and the full working out of ideas.

The performances on Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration, by conductor Paul Freeman and others, are all very dedicated and successful readings of music that is familiar sounding in its essence, but little known to most. The only reservation here is that Çedille allots 26 minutes of the disc's time is to solo instrument works that are given in succession, necessitated by the chronology, and this part of the disc may seem a little long to some listeners. Listening in short stretches, or rearranging the tracks, may well resolve this challenge.

Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (composer); Chicago Sinfonietta, Joseph Joubert (piano); Paul Freeman (conductor)
  1. Sinfonietta No. 1 for Strings
  2. Grass, poem for piano, strings & percussion
  3. String Quartet No. 1 based on the spiritual "Calvary"
  4. Blue/s Forms, for solo violin
  5. Lamentations: Black Folk Song Suite, for solo cello
  6. Louisiana Blues Strut (A Cakewalk), for violin
  7. Movement for String Trio
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