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The Classical Explorer

Symphonic Music: April 2009 Archives

Moving Beyond His Master's Style

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CPO 999836-2

Ferdinand Ries
(1784-1838)

Symphony #4 in F Major, Op. 110 (1818)
Symphony #6 in D Major, Op. 146 (1822)

Z├╝rich Chamber Orchestra/Howard Griffiths
CPO 999836-2 64:34

Ries was born in Bonn and studied with Beethoven in Vienna, so it's not surprising that his teacher's influence is apparent in much of Ries' orchestration. These two symphonies are very easygoing pieces and are all but guaranteed to give pleasure. The other six symphonies have been recorded by the same forces, and the four CDs are also available as a boxed set (CPO 777216).

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

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

Dean of American Church Music

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Cedille CDR90000039

Leo Sowerby
(1895-1968)

Concert Overture, H251 (1941)
Passacaglia, Interlude & Fugue, H207 (1931/2)
All on a Summer's Day, H325 (1954)
Symphony #2 in B minor, H188 (1927/8) *

Czech National Symphony Orchestra/Paul Freeman
* Chicago Sinfonietta/Paul Freeman
Cedille CDR90000039 60:51

Better known as a composer of church and organ music, Sowerby left quite a lot of orchestral music, including five symphonies. His music is identified by the work list compiled by Huntington. The music presented here has some affinity with that of other American composers of the same era such as Howard Hanson, although with a slightly harder edge, so you will hear the odd phrase which will remind you of Hindemith and, at one point, Mahler's 5th. The slow movement of the symphony would have made an excellent complement to one of John Ford's movies set in Monument Valley, and I mean that as a compliment. Cedille has recorded another CD of Sowerby's orchestral music, including The Prairie.

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

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

Composer As Interpreter

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Lyrita SRCD.227

William Alwyn
(1905-1985)

Symphony #1 (1949)
Symphony #4 (1959)

London Philharmonic Orchestra/William Alwyn
Lyrita SRCD.227 76:33

Alwyn had a very successful career as a composer for films which tended to overshadow his more serious work. He composed in a number of genres and has gradually been more thoroughly represented in recordings. There are several versions of his five symphonies, including the composer's own for Lyrita, a label with a high reputation for superb engineering. A listener new to Alwyn will hear an ability to write noble themes in the form of Elgar, some spiky rhythms like Walton's, and touches of Hindemith and Sibelius, but the more you listen to his music, the more you discern his individuality. There is a lot of other recorded Alwyn to explore-I particularly recommend his beautiful harp concerto, Lyra Angelica.

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

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

First Thoughts

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Chandos CHAN9902

Ralph Vaughan Williams
(1872-1958)

Symphony #2 "A London Symphony"
(Original 1913 version)

George Butterworth
(1885-1916)

Idyll "The Banks of Green Willow" (1913)

London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox
Chandos CHAN9902 67:39

As well as being a close friend, it was at Butterworth's suggestion that Vaughan Williams expand a symphonic poem into a symphony. Butterworth was one of the British composers who died in World War I and although he left only a small number of works, his influence was substantial.

Vaughan Williams revised this symphony considerably and those familiar with the final version will find that there are about twenty minutes of additional music in the original, although the first movement is all but unchanged. The overall effect is to make the symphony darker and edgier. Although some may prefer his final thoughts, it's very instructive to be able to hear the original. Hickox's cycle of the symphonies also includes the otherwise unrecorded Norfolk Rhapsody #2 (Chandos CHAN10001).

Read the full Classical Net review

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]
[ Also released on Hybrid Multichannel SACD CHSA5012: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]
Trumpet