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Symphonic Music

American Cityscape

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Telarc CD-80620

Jennifer Higdon
(b. 1962)

Concerto for Orchestra (2002)
City Scape (2002)

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Robert Spano
Telarc CD-80620 66:17

Some may read the dates of composition and bypass this CD, expecting difficult music. It's not. The concerto is in five movements, as is Béla Bartók's, and there are echoes of that work in Higdon's first movement. The music has great power, is inescapably American and is, for me, an important release. Likewise City Scape, a commission by the Atlanta symphony, which portrays aspects of that city, especially effectively in the long second movement. The fine recording, also available as an SACD, shows the music in the very best light.

Read the full Classical Net Review.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe - HBDirect - JPC ]

[ Also available on Multichannel Hybrid SACD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe - HBDirect - JPC ]

Classical Czech Symphonies

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Chandos 9740

Václav Pichl
(1741-1805)

Symphony in B Flat Major, Z23
Symphony in E Flat Major, Z24
Symphony in G Major, Z22
Symphony in C Major, Z21
Symphony in D Major "Diana", Z16

London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
Chandos CHAN9740 68:07

There is some confusion about the symphonies of the prolific Czech composer Václav (aka Wenzel) Pichl, in that some of his work may have been attributed to others, and the work of others attributed to him. A catalogue by Anita Zakin lists 39 symphonies, although other references credit him with many more. The symphonies on this CD are thought to have been written around 1769-70.

Pichl's career took him to Hungary, a twenty-year stint as Kapellmeister to Archduke Ferdinand in Lombardy, and finally to Vienna. With the exception of the last symphony which includes a minuet, all those recorded here are in three movements. This is another in Chandos's Contemporaries of Mozart series. Naxos 8.557761 contains four of his named symphonies, including the Diana Symphony.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe - HBDirect - JPC ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

German Whipped Cream

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Chandos CHAN9606

Richard Strauss
(1864-1949)

Suite from Schlagobers, Op. 70 (1921-2)
München (1939, rev. 1945)

Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
Chandos CHAN9606 58:59

Schlagobers, or Whipped Cream, is a scintillating ballet, and one of Richard Strauss's rarely heard works. As you'd expect, it's lushly scored and performed with the usual Järvi touch. München, a five-minute waltz, started life as a tribute to Munich but in its revised form became a memorial for the bombed city.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Mozartiana by Tchaikovsky

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Philips Duo 454253-2

Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky
(1840-1893)

Suite #1 in D minor, Op. 43 (1878-9)
Suite #2 in C Major, Op. 53 (1883)
Suite #3 in G Major, Op. 55 (1884)
Suite #4 "Mozartiana" in G Major, Op. 61 (1887)

New Philharmonia Orchestra/Antál Dorati
Philips Duo 454253-2 2CDs 143:23

Tchaikovsky's four suites for orchestra are, of course, far less known than his symphonies. The fourth, which is based on works of Mozart, has had more outings than the others, and the last movement of the third, a theme and variations, has been occasionally released separately. There is much to enjoy in all of them, with the strongest element being the dance. These 1967 recordings by a conductor with a very strong track record in Tchaikovsky, eg his pioneering recordings of the ballets, sound as fresh as when they were first issued.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe - HBDirect ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Swiss Symphonies

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Sterling CDS-1081-2

Robert Hermann
(1869-1912)

Symphony #1 in C Major, Op. 7 (1895)
Symphony #2 in B minor, Op. 11 (1905)

Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra, Reutlingen/Christopher Fifield
Sterling CDS-1081-2 74:42

Sterling's series of releases of rare music by Romantic composers visits Switzerland this time. Hermann was a student of Engelbert Humperdinck and a follower of Edvard Grieg. His two symphonies are well-crafted and never fail to hold interest.

Both works are wide-eyed and optimistic, often seeming to depict middle Europe's great outdoors. Though not as grand in conception as Anton Bruckner's symphonies, Hermann's slow movements especially emply a similar pastoral palette.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe - HBDirect - JPC ]

Definitely Not The Planets

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Naxos 8.553696

Gustav Holst
(1874-1934)

Somerset Rhapsody, Op. 21 #2 (1906-7)
Beni Mora (Oriental Suite), Op. 29 #1 (1909-10)
Invocation for Cello & Orchestra, Op. 19 #2 (1911) 1
Fugal Overture, Op. 40 #1 (1922)
Egdon Heath, Op.47 (1927)
Hammersmith, Op. 52 (1931)

1 Tim Hugh, cello
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
Naxos 8.553696 69:02

This well-chosen collection of short orchestral works by Holst gives further evidence, if any were needed, that he was not just a one-hit wonder. The music illustrates his folksong collecting, his fascination with oriental themes, and one of his few works for solo instrument and orchestra. The last two works are both rather dark and mysterious, in the manner of Saturn from The Planets. Lloyd-Jones has a fine track record as a conductor of English music and this very well-recorded CD adds to his reputation.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by Holst: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

More Than Opera

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EMI 763949-2

Charles Gounod
(1818-1893)

Symphony #1 in D Major (1855)
Symphony #2 in E Flat Major (c. 1856)

Toulouse Capitole Orchestra/Michel Plasson
EMI L'Espirit Français CDM763949-2 58:33

The second symphony was recorded many years ago by Igor Markevitch, but it's only quite recently that both symphonies have appeared in a handful of versions. Despite being written in the mid-nineteenth century, the orchestration is strongly reminiscent of Beethoven. Emotional depths are not plumbed, but pleasure is all but guaranteed in the hands of Plasson, a specialist in French repertoire. More rarely recorded is Gounod's delightful Little Symphony for winds and written in his old age. It's well worth seeking out.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Unknown Schubert 2

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Hyperion CDA67000

Franz Schubert
(1797-1828)

Symphony in D Major, D.615 (1818)
Symphony in D Major, D.708A (1820-21)
Symphony #10 in D Major, D. 936A (1828)

Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
Hyperion CDA67000 54:02

All of the works on this CD have been prepared by the British musicologist Brian Newbould. The first two items comprising two and four movements respectively, have been left in incomplete form so that some movements stop unexpectedly. The Symphony #10 is a more substantial work in three movements. Of particular interest is its superb slow movement, which anticipates Gustav Mahler. Newbould has also "completed" the Unfinished Symphony and Naxos has recorded an orchestration of the Death and the Maiden string quartet which I haven't heard.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Unknown Schubert 1

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Naxos 8.553095

Franz Schubert
(1797-1828)

Symphony #4 in C Minor "Tragic", D. 417
Symphony in C Major

Failoni Orchestra/Michael Halász
Naxos 8.553095 75:57

Apart from the eight familiar Schubert symphonies (1-6, 8, 9), there are various others which have either been completed or orchestrated after Schubert's death. The fourth symphony is well-known. The Symphony in C Major is an orchestration by Joseph Joachim, the nineteeth-century violinist and composer, of the Grand Duo D. 812 for two pianos. Robert Schumann and others found a symphonic quality to the duo and wondered if Schubert had intended it as such. Purists may quibble, but the orchestration sounds suitably Schubertian and provides us with about 45 minutes of attractive orchestral music. Halász has recorded the rest of the usual canon for Naxos and although I have not heard them all, I can recommend those that I have.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Concerto Premieres

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Caprice CAP21644

Per Gunnar Fredrik de Frumerie
(1908-1987)

Cello Concerto, Op. 81 (1984)
Violin Concerto, Op. 19 (1976)
13 Symphonic Variations, Op. 25 (1941)

Mats Lindström, cello
Tobias Ringborg, violin
Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Lü Jia
Caprice CAP21644

Often compared to Lars-Erik Larsson or Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, the Swede Gunnar de Frumerie took up the Romantic baton from countrymen Hugo Alfvén and Ture Rangström. The works on this disc are at times modern sounding, but with gentle orchestrations that are never congested. The symphonic variations, especially, display Frumerie's command of orchestral colors. The concertos are virtuosic, without being aggressive.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan ]
Trumpet