Peter Homans

Peter Homans: A Prague Spring

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American composer Peter Homans formally studied composition as a young man and then worked in the financial industry, returning to composition at the age of 40. His music, as heard here, draws on various sources: the dissonant melodicism and chamber-music orientation of his teacher Donald Martino, French chamber music of the 1920s, Stravinsky, and perhaps the neo-Romantics in A Prague Spring. Contrary to what the album subtitle "A Classical Suite by Peter Homans" might suggest, there are four works on the program, of which A Prague Spring is only the last. It's a problematical work. No listener would guess its subject, and Homans states it is "not specifically programmatic in any sense." "Hopefully," he continues, "the line of the piece does in some way describe the emergence of hope," and indeed, the work's livelinesss and flashes of major tonality might be interpreted that way. It's hard to tell, however, what that theme has to do with the work's most evident structural feature, namely its unusual concerto-like layout. Homans describes it as a work for flute and orchestra, but there is also a prominent solo part for an oboe, which Homans describes as the flutist's "alter ego." In the dimension of the program as a whole, too, the music is frequently imaginative but perhaps not fully coherent. The texts of the 4 Choruses, by poet Richard Wilbur, are muscular, concise works that seem to invite musical settings, but Homans blurs their focus with orchestral layers that don't fit the words. The two chamber pieces are more satisfying and would work well in programs devoted to Stravinsky or French neo-classicism. The music was recorded at various times and places, and it emerges as something of a sonic hodgepodge.

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