This will be short. Let's face it, there are no deep, underlying messages in this music. It is all just plain fun to listen to. I had not heard the other two items before, and according to the Summer 1998 Schwann (I buy only one issue a year) the Niagara Suite is not available. The Mississippi Suite (which is misspelled on the cover of the CD) was a pleasant experience. The final movement, Mardi Gras, has been swiped by various film composers for cowboy movies music. In fact, I'd swear it is in John Ford's "The Man Who Killed Liberty Valance". The Niagara Falls Suite, however, is a lot of cacophony and dissonance. The second movment, "Devil's Hole Massacre" sounds not unlike Beethoven's Wellington Symphony. I didn't care for it.
Now, to the main course. This recording is as good as any I know. I compared it with London's recordings with Doráti and the Detroit Symphony and Stanley Black's London Symphony recording in the Phase 4 Series. The sound on this Naxos disc is excellent. There is air around the music and a transparency that offers delightful inner detail. It is as good as either of the London discs. As for interpretation, Stromberg again holds his own. One of the defining moments is the appearance of the ass in "On the Trail". The soloist here captures the stubbornness and quirky, silly behavior excellently. I must mention that I took some time to compare this moment in detail. You really ought to do so as well. It is fascinating how different each violinist handles this moment and yet how each is valid and interesting. If I place the Stanley Black recording slightly ahead of the Naxos it is because I happen to really love the coupling, Stokowski's performance of Ives' Orchestral Set #2. Black plays the piece more 'symphonically' whereas Stromberg's is closer to a 'big band' sound. I like both and of course a lot of you would hate the Ives.
Anyway, this Naxos release is not just good for the price, it is good.
Copyright © 1999, Robert Stumpf II