Sean Hickey: Concertos
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The Return of the Classical Composer
Every once on a great while a recording of pieces by a new composer in the classical genre will bring back a sense that “modern” composition has not left the past completely behind. I need to make a comment that reflects upon my own personal experience during my music studies in college during the 1960s:
After one more class where we were lectured on and listened to compositions, on my way out, I asked the professor why it was that current, atonal compositions were, to me, unpleasant to listen to and no one composed in a style which at least gave a nod to the classics of the past? He responded by saying that compositional style was “old fashioned.” My parting statement was that I guessed that was why such music was still being listened to, in some cases hundreds of years later.
In the Delos’ release, “Concertos,” Composer Sean Hickey not only has a fresh approach to the genre, but a surprisingly evocative style which brought to mind the style and “presence” of so many composing giants of the classical past that I needed to go back immediately after the first listen and play this album again.
Hickey’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra performed by cellist Dmitry Kousev and the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra is a 2007 commissioned piece by the cellist. Hickey himself states in the booklet notes that he had Sibelius in mind during the early stages of the composition, but the compositional process was intruded upon by images of the Iraq conflict that Hickey found deeply disturbing. The work, the first of two concertos on this album, is at once moving and pleasing, precisely because Sean Hickey has rooted it in a classical cello concerto style, but which is clearly not “old fashioned.”
The Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, the second piece on this release, performed by clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein and the St. Petersburg orchestra, is a re-arrangement of the original 2006 chamber work for clarinet and string quartet. The orchestral version is a work of great contrasts, its performance aided by the familiarity; Fiterstein and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic premiered it in 2011. The development of the clarinet motif over the three movements present the listener with vibrant and delightful contrasts, and in the third movement features what Hickey tells us in his notes are brief fragments of several pieces of Celtic-based folk music.
Both the recording and the composer bare witness to a compositional style which clearly would be foreign to my college professor, and I, for one, feel fortunate to hear such mastery of the classical genre brought to life in modern times.
Sean Hickey: Cello & Clarinet Concertos
New Music Connoisseur describes these pieces as being "packed (with) many ideas...without ever digressing from a solid thematic core." Kouzov on cello and Fiterstein on clarinet are extremely talented soloists who play with such musicality that adds to the listening enjoyment of these new compositions by Hickey. A delightful listening experience!
Great recording as well.
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