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Expert Orchestration

Music by Lee Actor -
reviewed by

'Strongly recommended.'

Lee Actor: Music for Orchestra. © 2006 Albany Records

Lee Actor began his musical career in the 1970s as a violinist with the Albany Symphony Orchestra while he was studying for an advanced engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He later earned a master's degree in composition from San Jose State University. Before becoming a full-time composer and conductor in 2001 however, he spent about twenty years as a software specialist in the videogame industry. The four compositions on this recording appear to have been completed since his return to the music profession. They are worth listening to -- tonal, beautifully orchestrated and carefully constructed.

Actor's expert orchestration is immediately apparent in the first and strongest work on the program, Prelude to a Tragedy [listen -- track 1, 0:02-1:34]. The simple rising phrase is the first of two main elements used throughout the piece. Here, inverted, it leads into a return of the second element and an exciting crescendo [listen -- track 1, 8:55-10:21].

The Redwood Fanfare is just over three minutes in length. Commissioned by the Redwood Symphony, it celebrates that orchestra and the magnificent trees that gave the orchestra its name. Brassy, with references to both modern and baroque fanfare styles, the piece must have pleased both those who gave the commission and the audience at its 2002 premier. Actor again uses a limited number of short melodic elements to achieve a feeling of unity, a technique I've long admired in composers such as Beethoven and Shostakovich.

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Copyright © 30 April 2007 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


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