Review By Uncle Dave Lewis,Allmusic.com,February 2009
Samuel Adler is a known quantity to many insiders in American classical music as a composer, conductor, and educator; he taught at the Eastman School for three decades and his book, The Study of Orchestration, is a standard text used in music education. Adler’s mantel is crowded with the many distinctions he has earned, including one for the Pulitzer Prize for music. However, to the man on the street, and even to some reasonably well-informed classical listeners, Adler is a nonentity, and that’s in spite of the fact that his music has been frequently issued on recordings going back well into the era of LPs. This Naxos "American Classics" CD, Of Musique, Poetrie, Art and Love, is the second disc of Adler’s music to appear on Naxos, the other
When it came to serial techniques, Adler never really threw the baby out with the bathwater; while he uses them, Adler never found it necessary to shy away from tonal referencing or even tonality itself, preferring to mix it up. However, his work often has a distanced quality, partly owing to his harmonic neutrality and also to his preference for working in very short sections that turn over rapidly; one gets the impression that he prefers not to develop melodic ideas, no matter how strong, to their full term. He certainly knows how to write for the flute, and his Sonata for Flute and Piano (2004), composed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Juilliard School where he has taught since 1997, is the highlight of the disc, as is Carol Wincenc’s expert interpretation of this fancy, glittering, virtuosic piece. The Four Composer Portraits (2001–2002) is a very effective suite of exercises in combining his own idiom with those of four prominent composer friends—Milton Babbitt, Ned Rorem, Gunther Schuller, and David Diamond—and the Rorem piece is particularly affecting and poignant, with Adler intersecting more broadly stated serial material with the arcing lyricism more readily associated with Rorem, not to mention the slyly jazzy feel of the one for Schuller…the performers here are expert and excellent, particularly Melton and down to the Bowling Green Philharmonia under Emily Freeman Brown, who collaborate with Melton in realizing Adler’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (2003).