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Classical Music Review

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The Paul Whiteman Commissions & Other Early Works


Composer: Leo Sowerby

Conductor: Andy Baker
Performed by: The Avalon String Quartet and The Andy Baker Orchestra
Label: Cedille Records
RRP: £13.99
CDR 90000 205
Release Date: 13 August 2021

Cedille Records release the world-premiere recordings of Leo Sowerby’s symphonic jazz works of the Roaring Twenties, commissioned by bandleader Paul Whiteman. The Avalon String Quartet also performs a number of Sowerby’s chamber works from the same era, written in an American neoclassical vein, with folk and popular music influences...

Closer to classical music than it is to jazz, Leo Sowerby's symphonic jazz works as a glimpse into what the music scene of the 1920s was like. At times it will remind you of the soundtracks that accompanied silent movies... and there's something of a hint of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924) - another work that Paul Whiteman also commissioned for the same concert series.

The 10 track album (1 hr, 19 min, 01 sec) opens with 'Synconata' (11 min, 43 sec) which is performed by the Andy Baker Orchestra. The rest of the album's 9 tracks (1 hr, 07 min, 19 sec) are performed by The Avalon String Quartet. All of the works here beautifully compliment one another, but 'Synconata' was, for me, the most rewarding piece, with its cinematic style and diverse collection of themes. It's almost like a mini symphony in its own right.

A wonderful slice of history. Classical music fans will get a huge kick out of this recording.


Darren Rea

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