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Don Gillis: Twinkletoes; Rhapsody; Encore Concerto; Short Overture to an unwritten opera
     

Don Gillis: Twinkletoes; Rhapsody; Encore Concerto; Short Overture to an unwritten opera

by Ian Hobson
 
Don Gillis was a mid-century American composer whose work was steeped in a populist vein and shot through with the inspiration of his beloved, native land of Texas. Naturally, Gillis' unabashed populism did not endear him to the academic community, who viewed him as a throwback to the days of radio; a style of composition considered fundamentally dead by 1970, the

Overview

Don Gillis was a mid-century American composer whose work was steeped in a populist vein and shot through with the inspiration of his beloved, native land of Texas. Naturally, Gillis' unabashed populism did not endear him to the academic community, who viewed him as a throwback to the days of radio; a style of composition considered fundamentally dead by 1970, the date of the "Rhapsody for trumpet and orchestra" included on this fine Albany disc, Don Gillis: Encore Concerto. It features the Sinfonia Varsovia conducted by Ian Hobson, who also appears as the soloist in the title work, which served as Gillis' first piano concerto of two. Overall, this collection embodies some of the finest elements in Gillis' orchestral output; its centerpiece, "Short Overture to an Unwritten Opera" (1945) is certainly one of his finest creations; bright, addicting, and even featuring a surprise quotation from Ary Barroso's pop tune "Brasil." Perhaps the weakest thing on the disc is "Twinkletoes" (1956), a four-minute bit from an abandoned ballet score that Gillis utilized as the first movement of suite, though we are not informed as to what suite it was and why this movement isn't presented with the rest of it. The piece is sheer Broadway, footlights and the curtain rising, and is a rare example, seemingly, of Gillis on autopilot. Nevertheless, the three concerted works are all strong showings for Gillis and solid contributions to the repertoire of their respective instruments. The "Encore Concerto" (1956), played winningly and in a slightly tongue-in-cheek fashion by Hobson, is sort of like a "Concerto in F-lite" with jazzy syncopations, a middle movement blues, and a dash of humor, playing out against an orchestral backdrop that represents a sort of tug of war between the cosmopolitan and Texas. Some connection to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" can also be detected in Gillis' "Rhapsody for trumpet and orchestra" (1970), which is a really nice piece for the trumpet and filled with jazz licks. However, the "Rhapsody for harp and orchestra" (1953) represents a change of pace; it is diaphanous, atmospheric, and while Gillis' Texas roots are still cutting in on the background, that element never completely takes over. The SACD sound is quite present and full-bodied, and the one caveat -- other than "Twinkletoes" -- is that if one is a serious listener who has trouble letting his/her hair down, then this might prove too bright and ingratiating. This isn't music for longhairs, though; it's classical music in a 10-gallon hat, and for that, is first class.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/04/2008
Label:
Albany Records
UPC:
0034061100027
catalogNumber:
1000

Tracks

  1. Twinkletoes, for orchestra
  2. Rhapsody for harp & orchestra
  3. Piano Concerto No. 1 "Encore Concerto"
  4. Short Overture to an Unwritten Opera, for orchestra
  5. Rhapsody for trumpet & orchestra

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ian Hobson   Primary Artist

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