Phillip Rhodes: With a Mountain View (Music with Appalachian Roots). Veblen String Quartet; Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano, Anne Mayer, piano; Hector Valdivia, violin; Owensboro (KY) SO, Michael Luxnor, conductor; 61:40, © 2002, Centaur, $16.99.
Composer Phillip Rhodes (b.1940), a native of Western North Carolina, has long been affiliated with Carleton College in Northfield, MN, in whose Concert Hall most of the recordings on this CD were made. It is a lovely CD with a nice sampling of his works inspired by musical elements from his childhood stomping ground. The variety of the offerings, including two chamber works, an art song cycle and a piece for orchestra, all given fine performances recorded between 1976 and 2001, is especially pleasing.
The opening work is "Two Appalachian Settings for String Quartet," 1) "Love Songs" and 2) "Fiddle Tunes (No. 2)," played by the Veblen, whose members (Hector Valdivia, violin I, Mary Horozaniecki, violin II, Elizabeth Ericksen, viola, Thomas Rosenberg, cello) all seem to be associated with Carleton. This is followed by Mountain Songs , a cycle of five songs based on authentic melodies collected by Harvard professor Francis James Child and published in his The English and Scottish Popular Ballads . The cycle includes a slow and hauntingly beautiful version of "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" on a melody totally different from the one with which we are familiar. Bryn-Julson and Mayer (professor emerita of Carleton) do the honors wonderfully. Next comes "Fiddletunes (No. 1) for Solo Violin and Synthesized Strings" performed by Valdivia and a tape dating from 1976 - and in a strange way the most dated of the works, though by no means unpleasingly electronic. The concluding work is Reels and Reveries (Variations for Orchestra) in a live performance of its October 3, 1992, première for the inauguration of the concert hall in Owensboro's RiverPark Performing Arts Center, which also houses the offices and museum of the International Bluegrass Music Association.
The booklet contains fine, succinct, informative, interesting, and well-written notes by the composer about the source and genesis of the works, complete texts of the songs, bios of the artists, and recording information. The recorded sound is excellent. Music lovers who enjoy works inspired by or incorporating authentic folk elements in the tradition of Dvorák, Janácek, Copland, et al. , will like this production. Highly recommended.