Michael MAULDIN (b.1947)
The Last Musician of Ur (2012) [6:58]
Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra/Petr Vronský
rec. 29 Feb 2012, Reduta Hall, Olomouc, Czech Republic. DDD
In days of yore when the 33rpm 12” LP reigned supreme it had competition. It never came to much but there were a few smaller diameter classical EPs and 45 singles. I remember a reassuringly very thick BLP EP of Sargent conducting Beni Mora. It sounded stunning. Since 1983 and the dawn of the CD era there have been few classical singles. Here is one accommodated on what is physically the standard size silver disc but in this case playing just short of 7 minutes. As for the subject I think Navona must have known that I am a sucker for music from ancient times (review), even if of necessity such is highly speculative. The hint is in the title of this piece by Texan composer Michael Mauldin.
Remember archaeologist Leonard Woolley’s successful 1938 book Ur of the Chaldees? Ur was the centre of the Sumerian civilisation in ancient Mesopotamia, now Iraq. Mauldin’s The Last Musician of Ur is clearly not intended to be a reconstruction of music from the golden days of Ur. It is his imagining of the atmosphere of those far distant times but in the neo-romantic language of today. It is melodic, cinematographic, atmospheric and all-out orchestral. It owes its existence to the British harpist Andrew Lowings. Lowings it was who reconstructed the Gold Lyre of Ur which had been damaged by looters at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. The authentic and playable replica is used here. Its role and balance is however pretty much subsidiary in the score; no harp concerto here. A lush yet transparently scored film-score effect is what we hear. The music is very approachable and has a signature that delicately blends components of Hollywood epic exotica, Hovhaness, Griffes (Kubla Khan and White Peacock), Ravel and Debussy. An alluringly murmuring idea smokes and processes in sinuously diaphanous style throughout.
More details of the Mauldin-Lowings-Ur project can be found here.
After this I am left wondering about Mauldin’s other music, said to be evocative of the rugged beauty and ancient cultures of his adopted state of New Mexico. There is at least one orchestral CD of his music: Enchanted Land.
Rob Barnett 

Very approachable … delicately blends components of Hollywood epic exotica, Hovhaness, Griffes, Ravel and Debussy. 

Editor's note: The "single" nature of this recording has rather caught most online sellers unaware. AmazonUK is selling it for £9.10, Amazon US for $9 and ClassicsOnline for $7.99, if you buy it as an album, or $1.59 if you just buy the one and only track. ArkivMusic seems to be more conscious of the duration with a price of $3.99.

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