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Kubik: Divertimentos Nos 1 & 2 etc

Terry Everson (trumpet), Jing Peng (viola), Vivian Choi (piano); Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Gil Rose (BMOP Sound)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Gail Kubik
Divertimentos Nos 1 & 2; Symphony Concertante; Gerald McBoing Boing
Terry Everson (trumpet), Jing Peng (viola), Vivian Choi (piano); Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Gil Rose
BMOP BMOP/sound 1085 (CD/SACD)   69:19 mins


This American composer once inspired an enthusiastic LP sleeve note written by the formidable teacher Nadia Boulanger in praise of the music’s ‘unfaltering energy’, ‘dreaming power’, and ‘fecundity of mind’. But that was almost 60 years ago, and the hyperactive output of Gail Kubik (1914-84) has long since dropped off most people’s radar. Its reappearance is delightful and delicious, especially when performed as by Gil Rose’s Boston forces with so much wit, bright colouring and punch. Terry Everson’s jazz-inflected trumpet solos, prancing through the late 1950s Divertimenti, are particularly invigorating: icing on the cake in music already irrepressibly lively, though the second Divertimento proves more thoughtful and relaxed.

Built from little building blocks, crisp in the neo-classical Stravinsky manner, Kubik’s music found a natural home in film documentaries, a few features and cartoons, most typically in Gerald McBoing Boing (1950), adapted from Dr Seuss’s story about a boy who ‘speaks’ noises rather than words. Frank Kelley’s very lively narrator is an asset in the concert version we hear.

That leaves the Symphony Concertante, with its quirky solo line-up of trumpet, viola and piano – three instruments that should never mix. Bracing enough for the composer to win the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for music, the piece isn’t as well-knit as its companions. But it still offers multiple chances to feast on Kubik’s individual panache, the clear and vibrant recording, and a conductor and instrumentalists at the top of their game, clearly enjoying every note.

Geoff Brown

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