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CD Review

Jack Gallagher

Modern Masterpiece

  • Symphony #2 "Ascendant"
  • Quiet Reflections
London Symphony Orchestra/Joanne Falletta
Naxos American Classics 8.559768 75:08
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This is the second Naxos CD of Gallagher's music performed by Joann Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra. My review of the previous disc, which includes some information about Gallagher's background, is also available (Naxos 8.559652).

Superlatives do not come easily to me, and I would be embarrassed to attempt the kind of purple prose some critics manage to summon. However, I have no hesitation in saying that Jack Gallagher's new symphony is a masterpiece. Quiet Reflections is also a very satisfying piece, and aptly named. I am not going to attempt anything like a blow-by-blow description of these pieces, but here are some of the things I admire in this music:

In spite of its great length – over an hour – the symphony keeps my attention by its constant forward motion and inventive, predominantly flowing melody.
In the symphony there is variety of mood and dynamics within each movement and between movements. The long opening movement, "Boldly," is well-named: it is powerful, even craggy in part. The second movement, "Playfully, " (the only one under ten minutes) could be called a scherzo, and the third, "Slowly," does deliver that promise without being in the least languid; the very substantial last movement varies its pace. The symphony contains both forceful statement and lyricism without being elegiac or tragic. Note Gallagher's title.
Quiet Reflections is downright beautiful.
Gallagher's counterpoint is always clear. I can always hear more than one line at a time. This adds considerably to the interest of the music, without effort on the part of the listener.
Gallagher's orchestration is never excessive. The textures of the music are clear, and individual voices – horn, bassoon, bass clarinet, and flute, for instance, stand out pleasurably.
Falletta's conducting and the LSO's playing are first rate.
The recording is so good as to be demonstration quality; never muddy or distant, it allows every voice to be heard clearly.

This CD has earned my highest recommendation.

Copyright © 2015 by R. James Tobin.

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