Reuben Blundell and the Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra: American Discoveries

About

The Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra and conductor Reuben Blundell release American Discoveries, a continuation of their series of promoting previously unrecorded orchestral repertoire unearthed at the Fleischer Collection in Philadelphia. This collection features music by three female composers whose work merits more attention: Priscilla Alden Beach, Linda Robbins Coleman, and Alexandra Pierce.

Audio

# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 30:22
01City Trees
City Trees
4:26
02For A Beautiful Land
For A Beautiful Land
10:46

Behemoth, in five short movements

Alexandra Pierce (b. 1934)
03I. quarter note = 80
I. quarter note = 80
5:11
04II. Delicately, yet assertive, eighth note = 128
II. Delicately, yet assertive, eighth note = 128
1:40
05III. quarter note = 63
III. quarter note = 63
3:47
06IV. quarter note = 63
IV. quarter note = 63
1:27
07V. Jazzy, quarter note = 112
V. Jazzy, quarter note = 112
3:05

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

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

Reuben Blundell and the Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra

The Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1946 to provide music for the First Presbyterian Church of Lansdowne. Belgian-born conductor and publisher Henri Elkan led the orchestra from 1955 until his passing in 1980.

He initiated collaborations between the orchestra and area dance and choral ensembles and incorporated children’s concerts into the annual concert series. Elkan also featured prominent area musicians as soloists at LSO concerts. Dr. Jacques Voois, of West Chester University, took over the podium in 1980. He undertook the most ambitious venture to date in the orchestra’s history: performing live at a midnight concert broadcast around the world from within the United Nations in New York, in celebration of Earth Day. This performance was the first by a symphony orchestra within the UN.

Irving Ludwig, a Philadelphia Orchestra violinist for many years, was appointed Music Director in 1991, raising the orchestra’s capabilities until his passing in 2012. Maestro Ludwig’s tenure was marked by an uncompromising pursuit of excellence, as well as the involvement of colleagues from the Philadelphia Orchestra, including current LSO concertmaster Herold Klein, and two talented sons, Mark Ludwig (violist with the Boston Symphony), and the violin soloist, recording artist, concertmaster and conductor Michael Ludwig.

One of the most distinguished community orchestras in the world, the LSO performs a regular season of five concerts at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, and other various projects. Led by its sixth Music Director, Reuben Blundell, the orchestra continues its traditions of musical excellence, service to the community, and promotion of area talent.

Reuben Blundell

Reuben Blundell is currently in his seventh season as Music Director of the Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra. With the musicians and board, he has overseen an expansion of repertoire to include contemporary composers including John Adams, Jennifer Higdon and Mason Bates. The orchestra’s community outreach now includes children’s concerts, collaborations with the Lansdowne Theater, Lansdowne Friends School, Lansdowne Public Library, and the Twentieth Century Club. The orchestra recently received the Borough of Lansdowne’s inaugural Sycamore Award for community engagement.

Additionally, Reuben is music director of the Riverside Orchestra in New York, and performs regularly with the Chelsea Symphony as both a violinist and conductor. In demand as a performer and educator, Dr. Blundell has served as an Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania’s Millersville University and New York’s Hunter College, and taught for the US State Department and nonprofit American Voices in Lebanon and Iraq. While studying violin in Melbourne and Sydney he was a regular substitute violinist with several Australian orchestras, and was a violin fellow at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Music Center and the New World Symphony in Miami, Florida. Following summers at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians, he earned a doctorate in conducting at the Eastman School of Music with Neil Varon. Currently, he is a faculty member at New York’s Trinity School.

He lives with his wife, oboist Karen Birch Blundell, daughter Elizabeth, and their cat, Gracy, in Manhattan.

http://www.reubenblundell.com/

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