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Victor Carr Jr., May 2001

"Mississippi born Samuel Jones (b. 1935) is Composer in Residence of the Seattle Symphony, though he has had a decade-long relationship with the Amarillo Symphony, which commissioned Roundings (premiered in 2000) for its 75th Anniversary. Jones' musical style falls within the great American symphonic tradition of Copland, Barber, Hanson, and Piston, utilizing a primarily tonal language accented by occasional dissonant and atonal elements. The title Roundings: Musing and Meditations on Texas New Deal Murals refers to the Depression-era public murals painted under the auspices of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Each of the five murals, connected by a motto theme on the solo cello, depicts an aspect of American life, presenting Jones with the challenge of illustrating them sonically. He does so with some pretty clever orchestral devices, such as the baying French horns imitating a passing train in 'Locomotive', and actual mechanical sounds, like the pre-recorded tractor in "Plow". The music's beauty and narrative quality keeps you ever attentive and listening for the next sequence, which is always rewarding. This effect is no doubt enhanced by the Amarillo Symphony's enthusiastic and expert playing in all sections, and the imaginative leadership of James Setapen.

"Jones' Cello Sonata was commissioned in 1996 by the Fischer Duo for their 25th wedding anniversary (it's persuasively played here by Emmanuel Lopez and Denise Parr-Scanlin). It's a warmly melodic work, in a neo-romantic vein typified by the music of Samuel Barber. The slow movement quotes from the allegretto of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 (a favorite of the pianist), ingeniously incorporating it into the music's structure. Like Roundings, the Sonata is a rewarding musical experience worthy of repeated listening. Naxos has provided beautiful sound for both works."

Mark L. Lehman
American Record Guide, April 2001

"In Rounding, a 40-minute orchestral evocation of five public New Deal-era murals written just last year, that personality is populist and patriotic. The murals-'Windmills', 'Oil Well', 'Locomotive', 'Lariat', and 'Plow'-are enclosed by a lofty, sonorous prologue and epilogue, Jones is a resourceful (if staunchly traditional) orchestrator, and his sonic murals are rendered in a highly pictorial fashion. Pounding drilling rigs and swirling string figures in 'Oil Well' break out into a gusher; 'Locomotive' slows down for the station-we hear the train's whistle, bells, screeching brakes, and hissing steam with startling onomatopoeic immediacy-before it accelerates away. 'Lariat' incorporates the inevitable cow-boy songs, while 'Plow' includes a stately hymn. The total effect is brightly colored, cinematic, larger-than-life, oversimplified, naive, steeped in the American nation-building myth of taming the wilderness, settling the frontier, and spanning the continent with railroad, farms, and towns-very much like those New Deal murals themselves.

"Jones uses the solo cello at several key points in Roundings and seems to have a special affinity for the instrument, so it's not surprising he's written chamber music for it. He tells us that his 1996 Cello Sonata is also a programmatic work, though it's hardly what I would call picturesque. It is otherwise similar to Roundings in style: expansive, richly harmonized, traditional (almost Brahmsian) in idiom if somewhat rhapsodic in form. Judicious and sensitive use (avoiding any postmodern discontinuity) is made of the famous theme from the allegretto of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony-so naturally does it become a part of the piece, in fact, that many listeners may not notice the borrowing. Jones's warmth and generosity of spirit shine through every note, and this chamber-music-loving reviewer found the Sonata a more mature and emotionally satisfying work than its orchestral discmate.

"Performances are good (cellist Emmanuel Lopez especially so); engineering is stronger on impact that transparency.

Francois Juteau
Le Discophile Virtuel, November 2000

"Cette intéressante série de Naxos nous a valu jusqu'à present quelques découvertes, la plupart du temps heureuses. Ce disque tout récent, en provenance du Texas, présente la musique d'un compositeur apparenté aux grands "tonalistes" comme Barber, Hanson et Copland. L'oeuvre orchestrale est une suite descriptive de tableaux dont une "Locomotive" à faire envie au Pacific 231 d'Honegger...C'est une musique hautement évocatrice, simplement mélodique. La Sonate est une oeuvre très classique qui fait bien chanter le violoncelle."

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