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The Music of Allen Sapp

The Music Box

By Lawrence R. Casler

In his comparatively short career, Allen Sapp has already written large quantities of music in varying media for varying purposes. Many of his compositions are experiments in form, style, and sonority that indicate a bold, creative musical mind searching for adequate means of expression.

The Little Boy Lost cantata is such an experiment. Based on Blake's Songs of Experience and Songs of Innocence, it was written in 1952 and received its first complete performance at Kirkland House Sunday afternoon. While many of the work's fifteen sections--nine orchestral and six vocal--are quite fine, I could find little unity among them, either musical or dramatic.

This is a serous flaw. An extended composition needs some principle of organization, some inner logic that not only gives the separate sections a raison d'etre, but also builds to a culmination. The cantata's failure to do these things is attributable to several factors. There seemed to be virtually no relation between orchestra and chorus. The vocal sections were usually accompanied by only the piano, and it is significant that the one exception--Robert Gartside's tenor solo with light orchestral accompaniment--was among the high points of the performance. The conducting of Michael Greenebaum kept the difficult music on a fairly even keel. Perhaps if the performers had been more confident and better rehearsed, the cantata might have seemed more of a unified whole.

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