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Reviews

Reviews

of new music composition and works by Michael Kimbell

"In [Arcadian Symphony] Kimbell utilizes intricate counterpoint in the strings and winds, with much imitation and interplay between parts. The scherzo is lively, sardonic, amusing, and motivically concise -- again with a great deal of contrapuntal interplay. ... Particularly noteworthy were the theme and variations, which featured an arresting section of brass choir writing interwoven by the strings, with often as many as three distinct motives combined in complexity. A short Russian gavotte is the most playful and charming number; the final tarantella is a strange one indeed, full of mysticism and wildness."
-- Nancy Bloomer Deussen in 20th Century Music, March 1998
 
"[Arcadian Symphony] reflects its homage to Carl Reinecke (1824-1910), a now-neglected German composer who, Kimbell said, successfully drew on old traditions to create something fresh. To my ears, Reinecke passed the ball to Prokofiev who passed it to Kimbell. The result was skillfully written, ambitious music that transmitted something fresh through old forms. ... The opening overture displayed imaginative orchestration; for example, a virtuoso clarinet solo penetrated the haze of a droning double bass and brief, plucked viola figure. A theme-and-variations movement yielded one idiomatically luscious wind solo after another."
-- Ken Keuffel Jr. in The Arizona Daily Star, Dec. 7, 1998
 
"Dr. Kimbell's Rondino fit perfectly with the titanic gems [Dvorak Cello Concerto and Beethoven Symphony No. 9] of the early and late nineteenth century. Harmonically, the melodic material is treated in an original neo-Romantic manner that Prokofiev, Stravinsky or Poulenc might have chosen had they been interested in extending the styles of, for example, the Classical Symphony, Pulcinella or the Concert champêtre. Even in scarcely four and a half minutes, the work is a veritable orchestral kaleidoscope, with witty effervescences that are obviously as much fun for the players to perform as for the audience to listen to. Structurally too, this Rondino would not have been unfamiliar to either Beethoven or Dvorak: the work is a charming Quodlibet, or assembly of popular tunes that are interwoven throughout its entirety. Although less well-known today, many of the melodies would have been recognized by nineteenth-century audiences, some having been popularized in Carl Reinecke's Musikalischer Kindergarten or similar musical anthologies. The primary theme is based on a Turkish march written by the deposed Sultan Mustafa V for his younger brother, the notorious Abdul Hamid II "The Red"-in both line and harmony, it could (had it already been written) served as the basis for the à la turca section in the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth. Other tunes that flit in and out of the texture, often skillfully disguised so as to be mysterious to all but the most hardened of musical trivia cognoscenti, include Haydn's tune Austria (today known as Deutschland Über Alles) and Home, Sweet Home. In a mischievous, if bittersweet comment on events of the early 21st century, the latter tune is superimposed on the Dies Irae. There are many more musical quotations and allusions, but neither the composer nor this listener is telling!
It is refreshing to hear such vibrant music that attempts neither to be a pastiche of the past, nor to explore some abstract and abstruse school-"it is so inaccessible, therefore it must be good"-nor even to address some "fashionable" issue, but instead stands firmly and unapologetically on its own frank enjoyability."
-- Edmund Kimbell in 21st Century Music, March 2002
 
"Celestial Encounters is an absolutely beautiful piece making full use of the sonorities and expressive qualities of the piano. Creating sound pictures miraculously ..., this original work breaks the mold and creates its own."
-- Molly Schrag in 20th Century Music, February 1997
 
"Nebulae ... started out with a rumbling, twirling feeling, just as you might imagine vast columns of stellar dust would be; the sounds of this piece were both minute and gigantic, like the universe itself."
-- Cassandra Hemenway Brush in The Hardwick Gazette, August 1998
 
"The concert ... began with Kimbell's piano rendition of an orchestral Gavotte, drawn from his Arcadian Symphony. Neoclassic in design, the work takes unexpected Prokofievian shifts on a number of occasions, always leaving the listener alert."
-- Phillip George in 20th Century Music, October 1998