This is the third set in a veritable feast of Legendary Mercury recordings now slowly being released on Decca. Howard Hanson and the famous Eastman-Rochester Orchestra excel in recordings of their American countrymen with the scope and breadth of the project being quite astonishing.
The first disc contains some well-tried and tested works by Samuel Barber and Walter Piston coupled with some rare pieces by Griffes, Kennan, McCauley and Bergsma. In all the music, Hanson conducts with an infectious empathy especially in his memorable recording of Piston's "The Incredible Flutist". I also enjoyed the rarer works with McCauley's "Five Miniatures for Bassoon and Strings" particularly impressive.
Charles Ives remains one of America's founding fathers in the modern music scene and Hanson's classic recordings of "Three Places in New England" and "The Camp Meeting" (Symphony #3) remain amongst the best available, not least for the stunning sound on offer. William Schumann's "New England Triptych" is also quite winningly done throughout whilst the rarely heard Fifth Symphony by Peter Mennin makes for an intriguing listen.
I greatly enjoyed the Morton Gould recordings of the Fall River Legend and some beautifully arranged spirituals. Barber's "Médea" is one of his finest works and the short Ballet Suite brings out the best in Hanson and the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra. The fourth disc contains interesting works by Chadwick, Macdowell and a rarity by Johann Friedrich Peter, a Dutch composer based in New York in its early days as New Amsterdam.
The final disc contains some further classic items such as Carpenter's "Adventures in a Perambulator" and Phillips' "Selections from McGuffey's reader", quintessentially American works to the hilt and an excellent round up to this exhaustive survey. The Mercury recordings are as spectacular as one could imagine and fans of Americana should not hesitate in snapping up this glorious set.
Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech