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No one would call Allen Shawn's piano concerto saccharine. The composer appropriately uses the words 'introspective' and 'ruminative' to describe portions of the work. It is a substantial piece in four movements. Though completed in 1999, it is relatively conservative in style. The piano has the uncontested stage most of the way with the orchestra primarily providing accent and color. The reflective first movement includes the concerto's most important theme which appears again briefly in the more extroverted second movement and at greater length in the concluding fourth [listen -- track 5, 3:49-5:07]. Other themes also appear in multiple movements. None of the repeated themes is the Rachmaninov-like melody that would ensure success with an audience, but they are used with intelligence and the concerto has enough color and drive to hold interest.

The Paul Creston Dance Overture is a more likely, but still debatable prelude to a serious concerto. It's a fun piece in the 'American' style of Copland and others. Rhythms are lively and varied. Melodic material is conventional and development straightforward. The finale includes a handclapping hoe-down [listen -- track 6, 9:10-10:19]. Conductor David Alan Miller's performance comes in far ahead of a competing version conducted by David Amos.

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Copyright © 16 October 2003 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


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