DOUSA A Musical Portrait of the American Southwest
The American composer Dominic Dousa shares something with another countryman, Ferde Grofé: both are/were smitten with the great expanses and regional flavours of the United States. Grofé channelled his gifts for painting musical scenes into the grand sonic entity known as the orchestra; Dousa functions on a more intimate instrumental scale, as can be gleaned from this disc of appealing music for viola and piano.
‘A Musical Portrait of the American Southwest’ comprises three works written in a distinct Americana style, with open harmonies and melodies by turns folk-like, rugged and soaring. Dousa favours a tonal style that seems like a memory of distant times but the music’s poetic generosity and shapely architecture are clear signals the composer knows his craft.
The programmatic content is suggested in the titles Dousa assigns to the pieces and various movements. Vistas of New Mexico are conjured in Reflections on a Desert Winter, whose five movements range from serene lyricism to almost swashbuckling energy. Mountain Song is inspired by the Rocky Mountains, their immensity and beauty distilled into 10 minutes of affecting statements. Even Dousa’s Viola Sonata has a subtitle, From a Land Wild and Free. Its three movements evoke ‘the plains of the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico’, as the composer states.
Dousa himself serves as fluent and vital pianist in these performances with viola player Stephen Nordstrom, whose playing combines tonal beauty, technical agility and expressive depth.