Monday, October 25, 2010

Announcing: A Raisin in the Sun / Requiem for a Heavyweight

Intrada releases a new double-header CD today, from composer Laurence Rosenthal: A Raisin in the Sun (1961) and Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). It was my privilege to write the notes for this release. As Intrada's head honcho Douglass Fake observes in his tech talk for the liners, these two scores, together with The Miracle Worker (released previously by Intrada, and for which I also had the honor of doing the notes) form something of a loose trilogy of Americana from the composer, early in his distinguished career.

A Raisin in the Sun is the longer score, and headlines the disc (although it is programmed second). It's an outstanding display of Rosenthal's versatility, embracing everything from American jazz to native African rhythms. The heart of the score, however, is pure symphonic emotion. The themes are gorgeous, and beautifully developed -- I particularly enjoy the way Walter Younger's angular and agitated jazz motif surfaces in unexpected places, interrupting or shading the surrounding material.

If I had to pick favorites, however, Requiem for a Heavyweight -- ringing in at just over 16 minutes -- would take home the championship belt. The first time I heard it, that main title hit me like a blow to the head. (OK, no more boxing puns, I promise!) Everything you need to know about the main character -- his pride, his pain, his tragic honor -- is all there, crystallized in that amazing theme. Rosenthal's charming waltz melody is also wonderful, as is the twitchy New York jazz writing for the city's criminal underworld. I adore this score, through and through. (The film, incidentally, is startlingly good -- Anthony Quinn is sheer perfection, Mickey Rooney reminds you why he was one of the greatest actors of his generation, and Jackie Gleason is amazing in one of his most dramatic roles.)

So, another stunning release from Intrada and maestro Rosenthal! If my copies weren't already on the way, I'd be rushing to place an order -- which you can do here, while they last!

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