It is all good, all worth hearing, all primo examples of what one might dub "Middle Modernism," or in other words New Music that treads a middle ground between eclectic Tonality and Avant dashings into outer space. Carollo occupies his own turf consistently and originally. This is an excellent example of his way for those unfamiliar and an excellent addition to the collections of those familiar! Kudos!
Overall, this is important music by an important American composer, one with a quite distinctive voice and language. The well-executed performances are deeply committed, the recorded sound could hardly be bettered, and for anyone with curiosity about trends in contemporary music, Carollo’s disc is close to essential. Henry Fogel
This newest disc further confirms Carollo as a major compositional voice.
The disc takes its title from the first piece, Starry Night for string orchestra. Brilliantly and inventively written, the piece dwells on the “fear of the unknown.” This vital composition is captured in close, involving sound.
Transcendence in the Age of War (Concert Band version): One of the composer’s most emotionally powerful utterances, it deserves a place in the repertoire.
A superb collection of diverse and creative music; all of them are excellent and highly recommended. His music skirts the feeling of edginess while consistently attracting the ear to its underlying structure, and he employs clarity of texture, openness of sound and a method of bouncing the notes off one another, almost in hocket style. (The Penguins Girlfriends Guide to Classical Music)
This is a multifarious disc, but these works are by no means odds and ends: at the very least they are connected by excellence.
Thankfully, Navona Records have rescued these superb works from total obscurity, giving at least those who are prepared to look hard enough - for example, by regularly reading the review pages of MusicWeb International! - the opportunity to discover new music that often has every right to stand alongside the great works of past centuries, and to reward, mentally if not financially, those who have put so much creative effort into it.
The orchestral piece "Anguish in Every Household" fits in with these two in that all three have something of the crusty pioneers of American modernism--Ives, Ruggles and perhaps Henry Brant--embedded in them. (And others, too.) The thought is that he roots himself in the past in order to create another possible future for American classical music.
There is mystery and wonder painted with memorable tonal expressionism. Sometimes one is reminded of the Ives of "Central Park in the Dark" and "The Unanswered Question," not in terms of imitation but a kind of building upon the legacy of those masterworks. And there is the lushly full but cragged harmonies of the early masters too.
If the directors of the new symphony choose to feature works by Hawaii resident composers of symphonic music, this album by John Carollo shows there is material available and ready to go.
His first album, “Ampersand,” was released without fanfare or promotion by an obscure label in 2006, but came out a winner at Johnny Kai’s Hawaii Music Awards the following spring, in a category that usually receives a “recognition” award for being the only entrant in the category.
“Transcendence In The Age Of War,” arranged for concert band, brings the album to a rambunctious peak with a vigorous clash of martial themes. Carollo then comes full circle, returning to the opening string orchestra format for the final piece, “Nothing Shall Come of This.”
Perhaps, if the new Honolulu symphony looks outside the box, something shall indeed come of it.
Fans of well-performed, abstract compositions within a variety of settings should check this recording out if you are looking for something far from ordinary.
John Carollo: Starry Night - Audiophile Audition 9-4-11
I’m glad to have had the opportunity to hear John Carollo’s music. He’s a deft orchestrator, he manages instrumental textures very well, and he has some interesting things to say, especially in the chamber music vein.
The music doesn't lend itself to a quick spin; it's better appreciated when listened to from beginning to end in several sittings, letting the webs of instrumental wizardry unveil their enigmatic patterns.
Despite the contributed illustrations from Robert's brother Maxon Crumb (the cover is a family portrait including Carollo himself as a spiritually adopted sibling), the whole album isn't devoted to Crumb-mania, just the final suite, which is utterly breathtaking.
TRANSCENDENCE IN THE AGE OF WAR
It was the final work on the disc that made the greatest impact, however, even though it lasts a mere five minutes. Let Thy Mind Be Still was inspired by a book of Taoist meditations by Dend Ming-Dao, and Carollo tells us that “this piece speaks to the quiet stillness where peace and contentment exist and where earthly fancies are left behind.” This beautiful contemplative work could easily have a regular place in the repertoire of orchestras if conductors and administrators were aware of it. Instead of one more performance of Barber’s Adagio for Strings (a piece I dearly love), Let Thy Mind Be Still would resonate with listeners in a similar way, while introducing them to something new.
Henry Fogel - Fanfare
Time Out Chicago
Hawaii-based composer John A. Carollo’s timely Transcendence in the Age of War (Navona) is a 70-minute collection of works written over the last decade and is worth checking out for the opening track, “Desiderio for String Orchestra” alone. Scored for violins, violas, cellos and contrabass and performed by the Moravian String Orchestra, it’s a stingingly poignant piece that, in the words of Carollo, “expresses remoteness of desire, its discovery and the ultimate satisfaction of experiencing human appetites.”
The album's purely programmatic aims are best realized in the title work, Transcendence in the Age of War, originally composed for band; the two-piano version heard here effectively proceeds from duality to an ending of resolution that seems to continue in the final work on the program, Let the Mind Be Still. Whether or not you buy the political subtexts, Carollo, a partially self-taught composer, has accomplished a distinctive original style.
One would certainly hope that there are some conductors and ensembles out there listening to certainly consider these pieces in their programs. If you are someone who enjoys discovery of new musical voices, this is certainly a must-have disc. Each of the works here represent pieces that would fit well in any modern orchestral program. Each also tend to find ways to show off different orchestral solos and sections