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Symphonic Music: September 2008 Archives

Neilsen's Pupil

Danacord 417

Poul Schierbeck

Symphony #1, Op. 15 (1921) 46:12
Radio-Rhapsody, Op. 49 (1938) 16:45

Artur Rubinstein Philharmonic Orchestra/Ilya Stupel
Danacord DACOCD417 62:57

If you think this symphony sounds as if it were written by Carl Nielsen, you would not be far off. Schierbeck arrived at his style honestly; Nielsen was one of his composition teachers, and also conducted the premier performance of this fine symphony in 1922.

The little jewel of a third movement, Allegro molto comodo e quasi indolente (Dolce far niente), lasts slightly under four minutes, employs almost all of the colors of the full orchestra, and presents a very cheerful interlude in this spacious symphony. On the whole, it is a work of many moods and rich orchestration, and it deserves a wide audience. Schierbeck wrote that this symphony is not program music, but it was inspired by fireworks – the sparks and the glow in the sky.

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

A Youthful Czech Ballet

Supraphon 3303

Bohuslav Martinů

Who Is the Most Powerful in the World? (1923)

Prague Symphony Orchestra/Jirí Belohlávek
Supraphon SU3303-2 55:46

Who Is the Most Powerful in the World? is, to use Martinů's description, a comedy ballet. It concerns a mouse couple's search for the best suitor for their daughter, who must be "the most powerful in the world". The Mouse Prince proves unsuitable. A variety of others are tried and found wanting before the prince and the daughter eventually find true love. This is a delightful score. It pre-dates Martinů's Paris years but already the piano, so much a part of many of his later scores, is prominent. Some collections of the composer's music have included snippets from this ballet, but this CD appears to be its only complete recording.

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

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

In the Austro-German Tradition

Chandos CHAN9357

Franz Schmidt

Symphony #1 in E Major (1896-9)

Richard Strauss

Four Symphonic Interludes from Intermezzo (1924)

Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
Chandos CHAN9357 68:20

The Austrian, Franz Schmidt, wrote four symphonies, all of which are available on Chandos and conducted by Neeme Järvi. The shades of Schumann, Brahms and Richard Strauss are in varying degrees of evidence in his first, a work running about 45 minutes. If any of these three composers appeals, then Schmidt is someone to consider. The interludes from the Strauss opera have much the same feel as the suite from Der Rosenkavalier.

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

[ Sheet music by Schmidt: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Battle Scenes and Orgies

Timpani 1133

Florent Schmitt

Antoine et Cléopâtre, Op. 69 (1920)
Mirages, Op. 70 (1920-21)

Orchestre National de Lorraine/Jacques Mercier
Timpani 1C1133 58:13

Some of Schmitt's orchestral works are inspired by the femme fatale: La Tragédie de Salomé, recorded by Paray, de Almeida and others, Salâmmbo, recorded by Mercier for RCA and re-released by Arkiv Music, and Antoine et Cléopâtre, written for a translation by André Gide of the Shakespeare play. This six-part suite is lushly orchestrated with some exciting sequences and, fortunately, only slight attempt at evoking Egypt. Mirages comprises two separate piano pieces which were later orchestrated and combined: the first, a sort of tombeau de Debussy, has more than a trace of La Mer.

You might also be interested in an inexpensive Apex CD of La Tragédie de Salomé and the choral Psaume 47, conducted by Marek Janowski.

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

Orchestral Works by Cliffe

Sterling 1055

Frederic Cliffe

Symphony #1 in C Minor, Op. 1 (1889)
Orchestral Picture "Cloud and Sunshine" (1890)

Malmö Opera Orchestra/Christopher Fifield
Sterling CDS-1055-2 57:51

Asked to guess the identity of the composer of these works, you might consider a minor nineteenth-century German composer who knew his Brahms and Wagner very well: to take just one example, a lot of Stanford's music sounds like Brahms, but is none the worse for that.

Although born in the same year as Elgar, the English composer Cliffe followed a different path and although there are hints of later music, in the music presented here he never strays far from the norm of the period. The symphony, running about 43 minutes, is a welcome addition to the recorded repertoire. At its centre is a stately and quite emotional slow movement. Cloud and Sunshine is much what you'd expect. The somewhat reverberant acoustic – a church in Malmö – suits the music and Fifield, who has made other first recordings for Sterling, makes the best case for it.

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