Florida-born Lewis Spratlan has been among the few composers trained in the 1960s academy to have survived the transition to more accessible music. He won the Pulitzer Prize for composition in 2000 and hasn't slowed down at all; the first two works on the album date from his seventh decade, after the prize, and the title piece, composed in 1987, has continued to receive performances. This album can be recommended for anyone curious about the reasons for Spratlan's popularity. His music combines a high level of technical accomplishment, especially in the realm of orchestration, with readily graspable structures, and, although essentially atonal in orientation, it does not foreclose lyrical, tonal melody as an expressive device. The latter tendency is on display in the richly humorous A Summer's Day, which can be recommended for any orchestra wanting to include a contemporary piece at its outdoor summer concerts. The eight movements are very evocative of their titles, and even the ostensibly abstract Concerto for saxophone and orchestra carries strong extramusical associations in its twin juxtapositions of the saxophones (both a soprano and a tenor are used) with the orchestra and of coherent tonal material with musical chaos. The composer has stated that the work was inspired by the 2006 military conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah organization. The referents of the constantly shifting element of the Apollo and Daphne Variations are a bit less clear, but the work has continued to attract both performers and listeners, and it is assuredly not dull. Spratlan may be a postmodernist who can appeal to academics or an academic who can appeal to postmodernists; in either case he's probably a bit underrated.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|A Summer's Day|
|Concerto for saxophone & orchestra|
|Apollo and Daphne Variations|