Picks and Pans Review: David Del Tredici: in Memory of a Summer Day (child Alice, Part One)

UPDATED 03/14/1983 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/14/1983 at 01:00 AM EST

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano

Upon hearing Del Tredici play a piano piece some 25 years ago, Darius Milhaud recognized one of his own kind and exclaimed, "My boy, you are a composer!" Not long after, Aaron Copland called him "that rare find among composers—a creator with a truly original gift." Unhampered by his late start in studying music (age 12) and writing it (21), Del Tredici, at 45, has become one of the most performed and honored composers of his generation. His best-known garland is a 1980 Pulitzer Prize. The winning piece is recorded here for the first time by the conductor and orchestra that originally commissioned it. It is the sixth of his works set to the poetry of or inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and is just as accessible—if not as enjoyable—as Lewis Carroll. Theatrical in style, the hour-long Part I revolves mostly around a four-measure-long melody which Del Tredici calls "Simple Alice." He introduces it as a reverie, pumps it up to a carnival march, then a piece of crashing bombast before stripping it down and building it up again. Unfortunately, it possesses neither the melodic musculature nor the skeletal charm to support such a load, especially since the composer never really develops or varies it, only trots it out repeatedly with a new coat thrown over its shoulders. The piece ends on two cliff-hanging, unresolved notes. They lead into the as-yet-unrecorded Part II, completing what Del Tredici calls "the evening-long Child Alice." It could be a long evening, too.

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