Sometimes being an amateur — rather than a professional — has its advantages. I’m referring to the original meaning of ” amateur” — one who loves the subject.

If you’re an amateur composer, you’re free from the constraints of professional composers. You don’t have to compose a certain way to gain commissions, or recognition, or even tenure. You can simply write the music you want.

It worked for Charles Ives, a professional insurance broker. And it works equally well for Calin Huma, CEO of a multi-national support services corporation. Huma, like Ives, composes in his own style, quite independent of current trends.

Unlike Ives, Huma prefers a new-Romantic tonal language. This release features two world premiere recordings; the Symphony-Concerto, and Symphony No. 1.

I liked the Symphony-Concerto, but I loved the first symphony. The Symphony-Concerto places the solo piano and orchestra on equal footing. To my ears, it sounded somewhere between Rachmaninoff’s last concerto and Addinsell’s “Warsaw Concerto.”

There are plenty of big, sweeping gestures, rich, gooey harmonies, and roiling drama. Don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy it, especially pianist Sergiu Tuhutiu’s enthusiastic performance. It’s just it all sounded a little familiar.

Symphony No. 1 “Carpatica,” on the other hand, was outstanding. Here Huma moved beyond the confines of Post-Romanticism. The symphony’s subtitle refers to the Carpathian Mountains of Huma’s native Romania.

There’s a strong flavor of Romanian music running through the symphony, taking it in fresh directions. Huma’s harmonies arent’ based on traditional key relationships. Nevertheless, there’s a strong sense of forward motion.

Huma uses his thematic material effectively. At every stage, the listener knows where they are, and yet are still surprised at what comes next.

I would very much like to hear Huma’s second symphony, and other works he may have. Huma may be an amateur composer, but his skill level is professional grade.

Calin Huma: Symphony-Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
Symphony No. 1, “Carpatica”
Sergiu Tuhutiu, piano
BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Christopher Petrie, conductor
Guild GMCD 7824