by Walter Simmons
DEL BORGO: Rituale. Prologue and Dance. Statements. Memoriam—Babi Yar. Crane School of Music Wind Ensemble conducted by Anthony Joseph Maiello. GOLDEN CREST ATHDG-5079 (digital), produced by Clark Galehouse.
Golden Crest’s “Authenticated Composers Series” has made the music of many American composers—some relatively obscure—available to the record-buying public. Each release in this valuable and informative series concentrates entirely on one individual, allowing a fuller introduction to the composer’s musical personality than is possible on the conventional “contemporary miscellany” disc. Among the more rewarding past releases in the series have been programs featuring Vincent Persichetti, Alfred Reed, and Judith Lang Zaimont.
This latest disc presents music by Elliot Del Borgo, a former student of Persichetti and now a faculty member of the Crane School of Music, part of the State University of New York at Potsdam. Though only in his mid-40s, Del Borgo has some 75 works to his credit, many of them designed for musicians of moderate proficiency. Nearly half his output comprises music for symphonic band, and it is this portion of his work that is sampled here.
The four compositions on this disc communicate fluently through the band dialect of American Neo-Romanticism—a language whose roots lie unmistakably in the music of Howard Hanson. The earmarks of this style include a strong melodic emphasis (either warm and solemn or brash and assertive in character), modal chorale harmonizations, polytonal conflicts spiked by an abundance of flashy percussion effects, syncopated rhythmic ostinatos, and a directly expressive orientation controlled by a tight sense of pacing that never permits a dull moment. Although he never ventures outside these parameters, Del Borgo proves himself a superior practitioner of the genre, as each piece fulfills the basic requirements completely. Perhaps it is all a bit too glib, and one misses the signs of an individual voice; but the music evinces such vitality and expertise that one can safely predict that anyone with a taste for the style will enjoy this disc immensely.
Anthony Joseph Maiello conducts the Crane Wind Ensemble with requisite vigor and bite, although there are a few clinkers. The recorded sound is excellent, as are the surfaces.
I understand that Del Borgo’s chamber music moves in other stylistic directions, and that Golden Crest is soon to release a recording of his saxophone sonata. I will be interested to explore his music further.