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American Record, July 2011
Sonatas for viola and organ (church sonatas) were popular in the baroque period, and there is a body of 19th Century and early 20th Century music for viola and organ, but there isn't a great deal of literature for viola and organ. All the music on this recording is American, and it all comes from the second half of the 20th Century. The 'Incantation' and the 'Pulsar' by Augusta Read Thomas both began as pieces for solo violin (Thomas transcribed them for viola at the request of Carol Rodland), and the 1986 Pinkham 'Proclamation' was for solo organ; but the rest of the music here is for viola and organ. The title of the release, American Weavings, is from John Weaver, a composer new to me. Weaver's 'Concert Piece' opens the program, and his set of three Chorale Preludes closes it. Weaver, who was born in 1937, served as the Chairman of the organ department of Curtis from 1972 until 2003, and concurrently taught at Juilliard. His concept of the organ as an instrument for chamber music is fascinating, and both of his pieces allow the most indulgent and wonderful of the viola's colors to shine and blend with sounds I never knew the organ could make. The Rodlands are marvelous players, and most of this music came about because of their commissions. Carol teaches at the Eastman School of Music and clearly deserves all the awards she has been given over the years, and Catherine is an artist-in-residence at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. This was superbly recorded in 2010 in the Boe Memorial Chapel at St. Olaf. The organ was built by Holtkamp in 2007.