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Symphonic Music: December 2008 Archives

More Than Hungarian Folk Songs

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Chandos CHAN9811

Zoltan Kodály
(1882-1967)

Theatre Overture (1927)
Concerto for Orchestra (1939-40)
Dances of Marosszék (1923-7)
Symphony in C Major (1961)

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Yan Pascal Tortelier
Chandos CHAN9811 71:18

The Dances of Marosszék are fairly well-known but the remainder of the works on this disc are heard much less often. Other than the dances, the music does not draw on Kodály's folk song collecting, but there are indications within the music that he was a Hungarian composer. The overture and the Concerto are each in one movement running about 15 minutes. Although not completed until towards the end of his long life, the symphony had its gestation in the 1930s and to a large extent is a product of that era.

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

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com ]

Indulging Cyclical Impulses

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Cyprès CYP3601

Adolphe Biarent
(1871-1916)

Trenmor - Symphonic Poem (1905)
Symphony in D Minor (1908)
Two Sonnets for Cello & Orchestra (1909-13) 1

1 Luc Dewez, cello
Liège Philharmonic Orchestra/Pierre Bartholomée
Cyprès CYP3601 58:53

The Belgian composer Biarent is much less well-known than Franck or even Lekeu, probably because none of his works had been published at the time of his death. The music presented here shows the influence of Franck and d'Indy, with occasional nods towards Liszt, Wagner and Dukas, and, in the case of the sonnets, the Dvořák concerto.

Trenmor has something of the atmosphere of Franck's The Accursed Huntsman with scope for interestingly agitated passages, while the symphony, the only one Biarent wrote, runs about half an hour and is highly regarded within Belgium. We hear all too little of this country's music and this CD suggests there may be others awaiting discovery.

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

Music by the Director of the Sistine Choir

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Bongiovanni GB5651-2

Lorenzo Perosi
(1872-1956)

Suite #5 "Tortona" (c.1908)
Suite #7 "Torino" (undated)

Orchestra Sinfonica 'Nuova Cameristica di Milano'/Arturo Sacchetti
Bongiovanni GB5651-2 68:50

Perosi was better known as a composer of religious music and was once extremely popular. A crisis of faith caused ongoing mental problems and he was in and out of institutions for some time.

Among his orchestral compositions were ten suites representing Italian cities, #5 in homage to his home city. The music is melodious and immediately appealing. The orchestration shows traces of Brahms but the casual listener might guess that it was by Dvořák or someone like Suk or Fibich: Perosi was known to borrow ideas extensively from other composers. Not great music, but certainly well worth getting to know.

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

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com ]

British Symphonic Collection 14

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Classico CLASSCD634

Cipriani Potter
(1792-1871)

Symphony #7 in F Major (1826) 34:02

William Sterndale Bennett
(1816-1875)

Symphony in G minor Op. 43 (1867) 27:07

Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra/Douglas Bostock
Classico CLASSCD634

Teacher and illustrious student, Potter and Bennett were accomplished pianists, performers and composers.

Potter's F Major Symphony has the charm of early Schubert symphonies, although it is thought that Schubert was unknown in the UK at the time of its composition. It has also been compared to the first two Beethoven symphonies.

Bennett's symphony in G Minor is very Mendelssohnian in character and orchestration. This symphony was the first British symphony to find a regular place in the repertoire. If you find William Sterndale Bennett to your taste, you can easily find other works of his recorded on Marco Polo (several volumes of piano music and one volume of chamber music) and Lyrita (piano concerti) – all recommended.

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

[ Sheet music by Potter: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com
  Sheet music by Potter: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com ]

The Russians, Brahms and Reger Were His Ideals

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CPO 999639

Kurt Atterberg
(1887-1974)

Symphony #1 in B minor, Op. 3 (1909-11)
Symphony #4 "Sinfonia Piccola" in G minor, Op. 14 (1918)

Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Ari Rasilainen
CPO 999639-2 61:55

Atterberg's ten symphonies, including one for strings which is unnumbered, have been recorded for CPO as have several of his concertos and short orchestral works.

The two on this CD have something of the atmosphere of the countries of northern Europe we've learned from Grieg and Sibelius without sounding a great deal like either, and listening to more of Atterberg's music gradually reveals a recognisable style. Of particular interest is the sad and beautiful slow movement of the fourth symphony. A composer well worth exploring.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe
Also available in a boxed set of the symphonies Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com ]

A Musical Chameleon

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Naxos 8.570435

Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling
(1904-1985)

Symphony in C (1963)
Sinfonia Diatonica (1957)
Introduction & Fugue for Strings (1948)

Staatskapelle Weimar/José Serebrier
Naxos 8.570435 65:40

On the evidence of this CD, the German composer Schwarz-Schilling is something of a musical chameleon. The music sounds variously like Reger, Copland and possibly Walton, with traces of other composers along the way. It's always interesting to find a new composer and if this appeals, there are several other CDs of his music available.

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

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com ]

20th-Century Swedish Symphonies

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CPO 999677-2

Dag Wirén
(1905-1986)

Symphony #2, Op. 14 (1939)
Symphony #3, Op. 20 (1943-4)
Concert Overture #1, Op. 2 (1931)
Concert Overture #2, Op. 16 (1940)

Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
CPO 999677-2 65:38

The Swedish composer Wirén is one of those known mainly for one work, in his case the march from his Serenade for Strings. The two symphonies, the second a rather genial and breezy work, the third more serious, have slight connections with Nielsen and with the music Wirén would have heard during his time in Paris in the 1920s. The overtures make attractive fillers. The fourth and fifth symphonies and a ballet are available on another CPO CD. The first, an experimental work, was withdrawn.

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

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com ]

British Piano Concerto & Symphony

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Naxos 8.570406

John Gardner
(b. 1917)

Overture: Midsummer Ale, Op. 73 (1965)
Piano Concerto #1 in B Flat, Op. 34 (1956-7) 1
Symphony #1 in D Minor, Op. 2 (1946-7)

1 Peter Donohoe, piano
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
Naxos 8.570406 71:54

Gardner is yet another composer to have emerged from relative obscurity in recent years and this CD was a 90th birthday tribute in 2007. The compositions presented here, which work quite well as a concert, are in different styles. The breezy overture is succeeded by the piano concerto which has stylistic affinity with Britten's concerto. Although the CD is titled as one of Naxos' British Piano Concerto series, the main work is the symphony which runs about 41 minutes. Conceived during World War II, it is a dark work in the manner of Bax as in, for example, the slow movement of the first symphony or November Woods. There is much further information at the composer's website.

Read the Classical Net Review

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

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