Donna Amato

Carson Cooman: Piano Works

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This release looks like a typical effort to introduce the piano music of a young American composer, complete with overdramatic nature photography in the booklet. That is, until you look at the track list and contemplate the staggering opus numbers contained therein; the most recent work on the program, Lullaby (After Rameau), is designated Opus 806. One learns that Cooman was not yet 30 years old on this release and also maintained active careers as an organist, writer, and consultant, as well as apparently taking time out for hiking in his home region of upstate New York. This album offers a good way to get a grip on this intriguing figure, whose prolific production has sometimes been regarded as a kind of personal oddity. The medium of the short piano piece reveals it instead to be, at least partially, a consequence of his musical language. Cooman is not like Alan Hovhaness, not an inhabitant of a unique musical universe that can be revealed in chunks of desired size at will. Instead, he's something like a modern Telemann, a composer with a gift for elaborating simple, accessible musical materials with a variety of musical styles. Those styles are not in themselves simple. He seems to take off from American modernism of the middle 20th century, from about Vincent Persichetti up to Charles Wuorinen, with dashes of Copland's American populism and Bartók's way of making folk materials into abstract structures. It's quite a mix, but it's all boiled down to concise terms and put here into evocative little piano pieces that make sense for general listeners. Try it, and if you like it there's obviously plenty more where this came from. Notes, by Cooman himself, are in English only.

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