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Jubilation Overture / Symphony No. 4 / Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra / Sonic Structure

2.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Audio CD, August 18, 1995
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Editorial Reviews

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Ward (b. 1917) writes the kind of American Romanticism that puts him in line behind Roy Harris and Howard Hanson. Not a bad line to be in. Ward's music is tonal and, in places, exuberant (as in Jubilation Overture from 1945). His Symphony 4 (1958), the major work here, is part of that same Midwestern legacy. The Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra (1983) comes from the composer's interest in jazz and swing from his World War II years playing in the 7th Infantry Division's own swing band. The music is not dated, though. Sonic Structure (1980) is more abstract, but still tonal and lucid in its details. --Paul Cook
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Product Details

  • Composer: Robert Ward
  • Audio CD (August 18, 1995)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Albany Records
  • ASIN: B0000049KO
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #656,255 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By G.D. VINE VOICE on October 25, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Robert Ward's music is generally rather conservative, with strong ties to the music of the likes of Piston and Diamond, although Ward's music isn't quite in the league of those composers (at least not Piston). Still it is often rather finely wrought, somewhat neo-classical music, often effective and entertaining enough, and he certainly shows good sense in not letting the music outstay its welcome. Thus, the fourth symphony consists of three short movements, none of which are really inspired, but well-crafted enough to be worth a listen, tidy and elegant. The saxophone concerto similarly lasts for a quarter of an hour, and is cast in two movements. Here, however, Ward's skill and elegance just aren't enough to keep the work from lapsing into dull note-spinning. The jazz-influences sounds rather like a desperate cover-up for lack of inspiration than anything else. It is, in other words, not a work I plan to return to.

Sonic Sculpture is more harmonically adventurous, but also more romantic in sensibilities. It is still tautly constructed and never too long. The Jubilation Overture, on the other hand, is eminently forgettable. So while there is nothing close to being a masterpiece here, there are at least two works worth hearing by the adventurous (and two works that must be deemed failures). The performances are serviceable but lacking in power and sounds, at times, almost as if they are about to lose the direction - even in the more tautly constructed pieces. Sound quality is a little lacking in presence but not really objectionable. In sum, then - while I wouldn't at the same tine write off the other recordings of Ward's music, and would like to hear a really well-played and -recorded selection of his best works - this release is really mostly for the specialist.
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