American Record Guide

Still in his 30s, Carson Cooman is a composer with a fine technique and something important to say; his music is not too concerned with the forms and sounds of today’s most avant-garde work, so you might be disappointed if you are looking for that. But neither is the music simply evocative of tonal sounds and catchy rhythms—the kind that dominate so much recent music, especially in the US.

The short program offers two shorter works that frame the central one, Liminal, Symphony 4. Shoreline Rune (2014) is a somber piece dedicated to Judith Weir for her 60th birthday. Cooman’s description, “as if one is standing on the shore watching an entire tide cycle compressed into five elongated minutes”, suits it well. Prism is a meditative essay for solo organ—Cooman is himself a fine organist—that relies almost exclusively on different musical strata composed of perfect fifths.

The arresting symphony is more ambitious,both in length and in content; the opening paragraph includes a slow-moving texture in lower strings and brass punctuated by anxious pizzicato writing and acerbic chords sounded by two harps tuned a quarter tone apart. I’m particularly impressed by the depth of feeling in the music and the absolutely convincing sense of formal unfolding and proportion.

The performances and sound are excellent. I hope to hear more of Cooman’s music.

—Rob Haskins