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May 26, 1998

Modern ComposersSea Drift: Wind Music of Anthony Iannaccone. Sea Drift; Apparitions; Toccata Fanfares; After a Gentle Rain; Antiphonies; Images of Song and Dance No 2: Terpsichore. The Clarion Wind Symphony, Max Plank, conductor. (Albany Records, CD # TROY 280) 1998.

American composer Anthony Iannaccone was born in New York in 1943. He studied at the Manhattan School of Music and the Eastman School of Music with Vittorio Giannini, Aaron Copland, and David Diamond. For most of his career he has taught as Eastern Michigan University, where he now conducts the Collegium Musicum. Iannaccone has written a large body of orchestral and chamber works, including a number of pieces for wind ensemble. This new recording from Albany/Troy contains a sample of works for winds, written over a twenty-year period, from Antiphonies, composed in 1972, to Sea Drift, from 1992.

Iannaccone writes in an insistently eclectic language that comprehends diatonic, chromatic, and serial elements in a single work. The liner notes to the present album note Iannaccone's "balanced concern with the abstract relationship of form and content and the concrete features of color, texture, and rhythm." Iannaccone seems to prefer writing strongly programmatic music, and the pieces on this album indicate a strong proclivity toward the poetry of Walt Whitman. The title-work of the album takes its name from a Whitman collection, and each of the three movements of the work "derive their titles and inspiration from three poems in the...collection." Also inspired by a Whitman poem is "Apparitions," a one-movement work that the composer says "deals with both the appearances...and true nature of an idea, whether it be a poetic image or a musical phrase." Iannaccone obviously sees a close affinity between the language(s) of instrumental music and of poetry. Using Whitman's phrase, he states that "by transforming the character of the musical or poetic setting or context, a composer or a poet can make both strange and clear' a remarkable variety of apparitions' all derived from the same musical shape or poetic idea.

The first movement of Sea Drift takes as its program one of Whitman's best-known poems, "Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking." The musical structure of the work echoes the three-part thematic core of the poem, which the composer interprets as "birth, life (love), and death (rebirth)." The "undulating, rocking quality" of the music recalls the ocean that is one of the critical elements of the poem and also alludes to the cradle of the poem's title. "The poetic trio of bird- boy-sea is symbolized in the music by the timbres of flute-clarinet (or oboe)-horn." And the birth- life-death/rebirth cycle that underlies the poem is structurally suggested in the work by "an overall trajectory of cumulative and disintegrating textures...."

Listeners who enjoy wind ensembles as a refreshing change of texture from string- dominated orchestras will appreciate Iannaccone's full-bodied, well-rounded style. These works are obviously the work of a composer who has a nice appreciation of wind ensembles, and who understands their unique textures and sonorities. He eschews the heavy percussion that so often dominates military-band type wind groups, and creates colorful, deep, and diverse textures, weaving simple melodic elements into complex but powerful forms.

You can hear Sea Drift by Anthony Iannaccone on WHIL-FM (91.3) Thursday, June 4 at 7:30 PM as part of their weekly series of music from after 1950.

-- J. Green


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