Compositions of success

Entrepreneur: An Annapolis composer whose works were being performed when he was a child forms a business to market his works and arrange his engagements.

July 27, 2000|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Much Ado About Music has been the name of Leonard Moses' business for 18 months.

The same words also sum up the life's work of the Eastman-trained composer who has been active in the Annapolis cultural scene for more than three decades.

With three ballets, two oratorios, a symphony, a pair of musicals, and a host of chamber and choral works, his oeuvre includes about 150 compositions.

In addition, the 68-year-old Annapolitan has taught at the Naval School of Music in Washington.

Young musicians at Anne Arundel Community College have benefited from his musicianship, as have singers in Prince George's County, where Moses led a madrigal group for years.

These days, though, as the composer looks back on a career that began at age 9 when the Philadelphia Orchestra played one of his works, he is thinking entrepreneurial thoughts.

Much Ado, the company Moses formed a year and a half ago, is busy issuing compact discs of his works, arranging his engagements, seeking production of his musicals and arranging for wider publication of his works.

"A composer really is part salesman," Moses says. "Even Beethoven solicited people to come to his concerts or give him piano engagements. If you want to reach people, you have to sell them on what you're doing."

Of Much Ado's current offerings, I can vouch for Volume I of Moses' chamber works, a CD being sold at Tower Records, Sam Goody and other area stores. (A second program of music from his ballet "Flatlands" is full of estimable music, but a fair review of this digitized version will have to come from a reviewer more attuned to electronic sounds than I am.)

The chamber selections are varied, of high quality, and, for the most part, well played. I was especially taken with the dashing third movement from Moses' "Symphonic Suite for Brass" performed with breezy flair by the Monumental Brass Quintet of Bowie, which commissioned the work in 1986.

Moses may have experimented with avant-garde serialism in his younger days, but the voluptuous slow movement from his "Passion" ballet suite, heard here in an arrangement for piano trio, is the work of a romantic who favors long lines and affectionate harmonies.

"American Sonatina" is an exercise in homespun pianism with all sorts of creative bits tossed in to give the rusticity some creative kick. (The third movement is a pithy set of variations on "Sweet Betsy from Pike.") From the syncopations of the "Passion" opening that begin the program to the jaunty, lilting Trio for Oboe, Piano and Cello that closes it, the optimistic, deftly crafted fare is certainly worth a listen.

"I'm one of the lucky ones," Moses says with a smile. "I haven't written anything that's never been performed."

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