Review


Lyndol Mitchell
Concerto Grosso: for Three Trombones and Orchestra (in stile Barocco) : for three trombones and piano
Piano reduction

N.p., ,
Publisher: Cherry Classics Music
Date of Publication: 1961
URL: http://www.cherryclassics.com

Score and parts

Genre: TROMBONE ENSEMBLES

Lyndol Mitchell was an admired member of the theory/composition faculty at the Eastman School of Music during the 1950s-1960s. Mitchell’s promising career came to a premature end as he died from leukemia in February of 1963 at the age of 40 years. His Concerto Grosso for Three Trombones and Orchestra (in stile Barocco) was composed as part of his doctoral work at Eastman and the premiere in April of 1961 was described as “exceptionally well played” and a “… warmly appealing piece, with baroque suggestions and a touch of the modern Ernest Block, all very well worked out.” (Democrat & Chronicle, April 11, 1961, p.16) The composition was again performed by the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra in March of 1963, a performance which was broadcast a couple weeks later over national/international networks. Ironically, the national broadcast aired on the Mutual Radio Network April 7, 1963, the same day Eastman’s own tribute concert of Mitchell’s music, which also included a performance of the work. At the Eastman tribute concert, the concerto was performed by nine trombonists from the Eastman Trombone Ensemble. The Concerto Grosso was performed only a few times before its “rediscovery” in 2011 through the efforts of Mr. Kempton and Mr. Cherry.

As stated in the title, the Concerto Grosso is composed in the baroque style, harmonically conservative with much sequential material, but containing a rhythmic vitality and playfulness communicated through lightly syncopated figures and various asymmetrical meters. The music is both tuneful and well-crafted. The first movement begins with a slow, somber section, which is followed by a lively fugue with a syncopated subject passed both among the trombone trio and between the soloists and orchestra. The movement also includes infrequent meter changes. The slow, introductory material from the opening movement reappears as the fundamental theme of the second movement, though altered slightly by a change of meter. The final movement is a quick Presto, quarter note = circa 160, with several sixteenth-note figures that require multiple-tonguing. The passages occur most often in the first trombone part, less so in the second, and even less in the bass trombone. The audio from the Oklahoma broadcast varies slightly from the published score reviewed. It includes an additional four to eight measures at the end of the third movement, which creates a less abrupt, more satisfying end to the work.

The orchestration utilizes only single players for each woodwind part along with two horns and one trumpet for the brass section (1,1,1,1; 2,1, 0, 0; +strings). The sparser texture lends itself well to a piano reduction. Mr. Kempton’s reduction is realistic and achievable. While the breadth of sound and sustaining of some passages may be less than ideal, the overall effect is satisfying and makes future performances more probable. There is a minor inaccuracy at the beginning of the second movement in the reviewed reduction. The piano score indicates a common time signature for the first eight measures, however the music is correctly notated in a simple-triple meter.

Technically the trombone parts are manageable by more experienced players and the ranges are not extreme, though the tessitura of the first part requires a stronger performer. This work is a worthy, viable performance option for the orchestral trombone section or a trombone trio searching for works to perform. Thanks to Cherry Classics for publishing both the original orchestral composition along with an edition with a piano reduction.

Reviewer: Kevin Chiarizzio
Review Published January 31, 2019