Americans in Rome

Americans in Rome


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Americans in Rome

Since 1921, the American Academy in Rome -- founded in 1894 and chartered by an act of the United States Congress in 1905 -- has offered an annual fellowship and two residencies to American composers to live and study in Rome for one year. By the time Bridge's four-CD compilation Americans in Rome is offered, 124 such positions have been offered and fulfilled, and a surprising number of these composers have become major players in American music, though only a couple -- Samuel Barber and Elliott Carter -- are routinely recognized for their fellowships or residencies at AAR. Curator Donald Berman indicates that, apart from the once obligatory round of study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, the AAR fellowship
esidency is the next best-kept secret in American art music, and to support his thesis Berman has pulled together this amazingly comprehensive set. Its four discs are subdivided into collections of solo song, music for strings and piano, music for piano solo, and music for winds and piano. Considering that it contains 38 compositions written by nearly as many composers, the personnel is kept fairly compact, although Donald Berman is the main pianist throughout the set, Anne-Marie McDermott and Yehudi Wyner also pitch in on the keys, the latter in his own work. Among other "name" participants in the set are clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, the Curiously Strong Wind Quintet, Collage New Music Ensemble, violinists Ida Kavafian and SungHae Anna Kim (of the Laurel Trio), cellist Peter Wiley, and soprano Susan Narucki, to name just a few. However, there is no showboating here; all of the performances are solely and solemnly given in the service of the music and to serve in illustrating the premise. In curating this set, Berman has not limited himself to compositions written by these fellows or residents while they were serving in Rome -- although such works are certainly present -- but pieces drawn from any particular time in the composer's career that seem to amplify the notion of a shared, shaping influence attributable to the environment of the Academy, its surroundings, and to some degree the preferences of Academy's instructors. Indeed, much of this music has an open-air quality to it, a good deal of it stresses melodicity, and, in the chamber pieces, there is a shared concern about novel tone qualities produced by certain combinations of instruments. Most of the composers represented here are living, active, and reasonably to very well-known figures in contemporary music. Yet there are some unique discoveries among older composers represented, such as Hunter Johnson's jazzy "Piano Sonata" (1936) and Harold Shapero's summery, witty, and ingratiating "Six for Wind Quintet" (1995). While Americans in Rome is centered on academic composers in an academic setting, surprisingly little of the music is "cold" in the manner usually associated with Academia -- perhaps least of all Elliott Carter's contributions, orchestrations of earlier songs made during his last residency in 1979-1980 -- although some of it is at least a little "cool." Some aspects of Americans in Rome are a bit of a barrier; first its huge size, which means the mere act of taking it all in is something of a challenge in itself, and second that the collection -- just by virtue of being what it is -- is more likely to be attractive as a reference source or university library staple as opposed to an item of interest to the general listenership. In listening one should try and take it in a little at a time; the common spirit that drives these pieces -- which stresses cleanliness, intellectual achievement, and textual refinement -- can make a bunch of them taken at one time a little unexciting. Nevertheless, Americans in Rome is still a mightily impressive project just for its range, scope, and the effort that went into it and it will prove an invaluable resource for those wanting to know anything about -- and indeed, perhaps to participate in -- the fellowships and residencies for composers at the Academy of Rome.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/14/2008
Label: Bridge
UPC: 0090404927126
catalogNumber: 9271


  1. Four Dickinson Songs, for soprano & piano
  2. In the Dark Pinewood, song for voice & piano
  3. The Beggar's Song, song for voice & piano
  4. Of That So Sweet Imprisonment, song for voice & piano
  5. Sleep now, song for voice & piano, Op. 10/2
  6. Siciliano, for baritone & strings (Five Love Songs)
  7. Songs from Michelangelo, for baritone & piano
  8. Spider Love, for voice & piano
  9. Dr. Heidegger's Fountain of Youth, opera: Prescription for Living
  10. Look Down Fair Moon, for voice & piano
  11. The Forest of the Dead Trees, for voice & piano
  12. For Wittgenstein, for voice & piano
  13. There Were Two Swans, for voice & piano
  14. The Dolphins, for voice & piano
  15. Montezuma, opera: Act 2. Tableau I. Tableau II. Scene VI.
  16. Warble for Lilac-Time, for voice & piano (or orchestra)
  17. Voyage, for medium voice & piano
  18. Mozart en Route, for violin, viola & cello
  19. Passacaglia, for piano trio
  20. Tesserae, for viola & piano
  21. Sirens, for piano trio
  22. Sonata for violin & piano
  23. Three Intermezzi, for cello solo
  24. Beyond Words, for piano quartet
  25. Fantasy Rondo for piano
  26. My Friend Mozart, for piano
  27. Bagatelles (12), for piano: Bagatelle No. IV
  28. Bagatelles (12), for piano: Bagatelle No. V
  29. Nocturne, for piano
  30. Sound Reasoning in the Tower of Babel, for piano
  31. Piano Sonata
  32. Sombras, for piano
  33. Three Studies for piano, Op. 5
  34. Oh, Susanna, for piano
  35. Commedia, for clarinet & piano
  36. Vent, for flute & piano
  37. Dandelion Wine, for ensemble
  38. Pre-Amnesia, for saxophone & piano
  39. Mythic Birds of Saugerties, for bass clarinet
  40. -(solo); =(duo), for flute solo
  41. Beams!, for trombone & tape
  42. Pastorale for oboe & piano (or harp & strings), Op. 38
  43. Six for Five Wind Quintet: 1. Overture
  44. Six for Five Wind Quintet: 2. Song
  45. Six for Five Wind Quintet: 6. Finale

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