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May 12, 1998

Modern Composers[Music of] Jordan Waring. The Mountains of Tolima; Piano Concerto No. 1; Bosnian Overture ("The Tears of Sarajevo"). Moravska Philharmonie Olomouc, Nicolas Smith, conductor. (MMC Recordings, CD # MMC2051) 1997.

Jordan Waring (b. 1964) will probably always be known as the grandson of The Man Who Taught America How To Sing. Not only was his grandfather the famous choral conductor and radio personality Fred Waring, but both his parents were musicians. Though young Jordan studied trumpet and piano and showed some interest in composing, his parents encouraged him to pursue a non-musical career, and he became a successful stockbroker in New York. Then, at age 28, after establishing himself in that most un-musical enterprise, Waring "suddenly began composition again," though he continues to work as a stockbroker, juggling the two careers -- so far with considerable success. The sample of his work on this new album from MMC Recordings establishes Waring as a significant, if still somewhat immature, composer.

It has been said that the twentieth century begins and ends in Sarajevo, and the tragedy and turmoil of that city and region have been the basis for a number of musical works as well as works in other media. Waring's "Bosnian Overture" paints a picture of the region that seems to be not only unendurably sad but unrelievedly pessimistic in its prognosis for the near future. Written in 1995 and "dedicated to the victims of the Bosnian holocaust," Tears of Sarajevo begins with a "plaintive and lonely trumpet announc[ing] the main theme...which is immediately repeated with simple harmonic accompaniment for the horns." This theme sets the tone of the piece, but is not specific as to place. A "very intimate clarinet theme" in the middle section, however, sets the piece firmly in eastern Europe. After a brief and somewhat grandiose section based on orchestral development of the clarinet theme, with "fanfare-like rhythms" adding to a temporarily upbeat mood, the ten-minute work closes "in a very quiet and reflective mood" with the second theme stated simply by winds and harp. The overall mood of the piece is one not only of loss but of pessimism bordering on despair at the seemingly endless insanity that has become Bosnia.

Also on the present album are Mountains of Tolima and Piano Concerto No. 1, with the Cuban-American pianist Jose Ignacio Diaz as soloist. The Mountains of Tolima, from 1995, is somewhat unusual in its scoring for orchestra and two guitars. These provide a vaguely Latin American flavor to the work.

Waring's first piano concerto is also from 1995 and dedicated to Mr. Diaz. It is fairly conventional in form -- three movements, orchestral introduction, solo cadenzas, no shocking surprises. Waring shows in all these works his willingness simply to write beautiful music. Though they vary in inspiration, form, mood, voices, and other ways, the three pieces are first of all the work of a composer who likes and respects traditional mainstream western notions of what music is supposed to be. This is no doubt partly due to the fact that Waring is not a product of the academic system, but writes the way he wants to write. Whether he will continue the musical path or return to the world of finance and virtual commodities remains an open question.

You can hear Bosnian Overture--The Tears of Sarajevo on WHIL-FM (91.3) Thursday, May 21 at 7:30 PM as part of their weekly series of music from after 1950.

--J. Green

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