CARL VOLLRATH - Three Pastels for Piano and Orchestra

Buy CD from Amazon
CARL VOLLRATH - Three Pastels for Piano & Orchestra - Karolina Rojahn (Piano) - Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra - Petr Vronsky (Conductor) - 896931003391 - Released: May 2016 - Navona Records NV6039

Piano Concerto No. 1 "Pastel 1"
Piano Concerto No. 2 "Pastel 2"
Piano Concerto No. 3 "Pastel 3"

American composer Carl Vollrath was born in New York City to German parents. He studied composition with Ernst von Dohnanyi, Carlisle Floyd, and John Boda. He served with the West Point Military Band at West Point NY from 1953 to 1956 and was a music consultant in Miami from 1956 to 1958. He joined the Troy University faculty in 1965.

These three Piano Concertos labeled by the composer himself as "pastels" because of the light and abstract imagery they paint could also be seen, in my opinion, as "watercolors" with fluid lines and subtle contrasts. The main point of departure that sparks each movement is always present but goes through many finespun and fluid changes along the way, while avoiding the meandering trap. Described as neo-impressionist, I believe this music's strong rhythmic impetus raises it above that, and the elusive inclusion of Eastern harmonic scales here and there, make it hard to pigeonhole. There are moments of rich, melodic beauty (the slow movement of No. 3 for example) and moments of driven agitation. All very well projected with inspired playing by pianist Karolina Rojahn, a strong advocate of contemporary music. The piano and orchestra often intermingle, and the recording captures this perfectly by not positioning the piano too far forward in the soundstage.

These works were written between 2012 and 2015, as present-day as it gets, and yet sound as if they could have been composed 100 years ago. So if you like "new" music that isn't too far out in left field, this may well be a pleasant new discovery to add to your collection.

Jean-Yves Duperron - July 2016