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American Record Guide, May 2008

At the moment Naxos is the king among labels advocating American music, but they’re starting to slip a bit, aiming more for breadth than depth, putting forth composers who might not be ready to have a full disc of their works unleashed on the world. The music of Gregory Hutter (b. 1971) is a case in point. The orchestral works, Electric Traction, Still Life, and Skyscrapers show the man’s greater composition abilities with a full orchestra, though I thought that the garrulousness of Skyscrapers a bit reminiscent of the sturm und drang petulance that came out of the works of Scandinavian composers in the 80s and 90s and not quite nearly as original. Hutter’s Electric Traction (2002) is part of a trilogy of “urban inspired” sounds, mostly coming from the commuter experience in Chicago. It’s an impressionist piece full of American energy and bursts of tonal expressions of factories, cityscapes, farms passing by, iron bridges, etc. It works, and when the trilogy comes together in the future it might make for a tasty concert piece.

Still Life (2004) is even better. It’s also an impressionist piece, but slow and modulated more carefully this time. No orchestral fireworks here, merely a song-like oboe (Miroslav Safar) framed in melodic lines straight from Vaughan Williams or John Ireland.

Skyscrapers (2001) is much less inventive, as if the composer wrote it to prove he could. After Electric Traction and Still Life the man clearly has nothing to prove (and he should give up trying).

The piano works here pose different problems. Fantasy Pieces (2001) is not particularly inventive; all of it has been done before. The Melancholy Rags, Book I (2000), are works that Mr Hutter can probably crank out in his sleep—but what wonderful music! He clearly understands what a rag is and he also has the feel for them. I want more of these things!

I think we’ll be hearing from this composr in the future, but he needs to get the crustiness of modernism out of his system. If he hasn’t quite found his voice yet, he’s got time—and talent. He’ll get there.

James Manheim, May 2008

Chicago-based composer Gregory Hutter writes accessible music that’s evocative of familiar sounds and scenes without being obvious about it. He pulls off a couple of neat tricks. First, he is among the few contemporary composers who manages to employ both traditional tonality and more dissonant harmonic idioms without seeming conflicted or, for, the most part, without losing the thread of a consistent artistic personality. Second, he employs Baroque procedures in new ways, neither sentimentally nor with a Stravinskian dryness; the music on this disc bears some affinities with that of John Adams in its treatment of older musical languages.

As a whole, the disc offers a program of orchestral and piano music that ought to be of interest to young performers in either medium who are seeking a new connection with audiences. Many orchestral premieres these days are recorded with comparatively inexpensive Eastern European ensembles (here the Moravian Symphony Orchestra of Olomouc), while North Americans (in this case Canadian pianist Winston Choi) take the smaller pieces. All acquit themselves solidly, and the disc is another strong entry in Naxos’ impressively diverse American Classics series.

Carson Cooman
Fanfare, May 2008

The Moravian Philharmonic delivers performances that seem true to the spirit of these orchestral pieces.

The sound quality of the disc is generally satisfying, although the piano works could have benefited from some warmer mastering and a more resonant acoustic. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2008

Gregory Hutter is part of the American composers aiming at a musical style that is easily communicated, having been a graduate of the University of Michigan where his mentors included William Bolcom and William Albright. Born in 1971 he is today involved in education while following a path as a modernist composer happy to write in a tonal or atonal style. The present disc makes a good visiting card, its mixed contents taking us through colourful orchestral scores on a descriptive journey by Electric Traction and ending with the first book of The Melancholy Rags, the work inspired by Bolcom who had already contributed much in this genre. The five Fantasy Pieces for solo piano explore the keyboard’s sundry traditions from modern Free Invention to a formal Passacaglia. Serenity opens Still Life, an orchestral work recreating a painting in sound, and taking the shimmering shades of the Impressionist era as the staring point. Scored for a solo oboe and strings, it is easy to like, and makes a contrast to the appropriately abrasive aspects of Skyscrapers. Relative newcomer, the Canadian pianist, Winston Choi, proves equally at home in the unusual quality of the Fantasy Pieces or the tongue-in-cheek Melancholy Rags. The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra is not a household name, but they prove a very capable ensemble that has enjoyed critical acclaim in a number of European tours. The recordings come from a number sessions in the Czech Republic and the United States from 2001 to 2005, the presence of the composer in the producer’s chair being the common factor. He has obtained excellent balance in his orchestral textures, the piano well up-front. A limited release issue easily obtained on Internet.

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