Review By Robert Carl ,Fanfare,January 2011
Any review of Carson Cooman must inevitably begin with his extraordinary prolificity. He’s at the moment of this review 28 years old, the most recent work on this CD dates from 2009 and is op. 811, and one must assume a number of works have already issued from the pipeline since. Add to that his work as a performer (organist), arts consultant, and critic for this publication, and you get an idea of just what a phenomenon he is. [Regarding the last category, I found myself catching up on Fanfares from the last few cycles, reading a review of Maxwell Davies’ opera Taverner in 33:4, and thinking, “Gosh, this review is long but it’s incredibly informative and well written; I’m actually learning something.” And behold, when I got to the end I saw it
So OK, the by-now-usual introduction can be dispensed with. Because the composer is what I’d call a “good acquaintance,” I approached this review with a little trepidation, because I always fear that with so much music it’s going to sound like boilerplate, and I may be put in an embarrassing situation. But the near-miraculous thing is that Cooman continues to write music that’s this good, even with his breathless pace of production. All of these pieces have some connection to Nantucket, a place dear to the composer’s heart, either through impressionistic evocation of landscape, or association with a memorable personal experience. They range from orchestra to solo trumpet, and cover various chamber ensembles in between.
Cooman is a composer whose deepest roots seem to be in the American mid 20th-century tradition of nationalist/pantonalist composers. So his music always has strong melodic and motivic hooks, clearly pronounced and developed. But he’s hardly unaware of the rest of the century’s legacy. The bassoon quintet, for one example, has coloristic touches (such as the “mobile” of string harmonics that concludes the work’s accompaniment) that reflect the changes in the color/timbre palette we’ve seen over the past few decades. And though a lyrical essay very much in the old style (as its title indicates), the trio for trumpet, cello, and piano transcends the possible pitfalls of its instrumentation to sound so natural that one wonders why it hasn’t been used extensively by others before.
The strongest argument for this music comes from its obvious commitment to its materials, the composer’s deep hearing of what he’s writing, and a refusal to settle for easy solutions. To my taste the best two pieces are the orchestral ones framing the program, Miacomet Dreaming, with its utterly obsessive dotted rhythm motive, and Flying Machine, which is wonderfully extravagant in its ideas and orchestration.
The downside is that there’s just so much of it, and it seems like fabric cut from an endless roll (albeit of exceptional workmanship and quality). I only know a fraction of the composer’s output from a few CDs, but it do
Review By Stephen Eddins,Allmusic.com,September 2010
American composer Carson Cooman has had a phenomenally productive career, with opus numbers into the 800s by his 27th year, and he has maintained an active performance schedule as an organist, as well as being a music journalist and entrepreneur. The works on this CD, written between 2002 and 2007, are scored for a variety of forces ranging from solo to full orchestra, and all were inspired by the landscapes of Nantucket Island, off the coast of Massachusetts. Cooman’s music is lyrical and tonally centered, but he usually avoids falling into easy neo-Romantic clichés. His is particularly gifted as an orchestrator, and his works are full of delightful colors and inventive effects that he integrates with complete naturalness. In spite of the fact that each of these