LEROY ROBERTSON (1896-1971)
Two Concert Etudes (1933) 8.14
Three Songs from The Shadow 5.24
Piano Quintet (1933) 17.06
The American Serenade - String Quartet No. 2 (1945)
Matthew Robertson, piano,
(grandson of composer) JoAnn Otley, soprano Elizabeth Cox Ballantyne,
piano Stacy Phelps, violin Dawn Phelps Neal, violin (cousin of the composer)
Cynthia Phelps, viola Shelley Phelps, cello Sheila Phelps, piano Jean Bradford,
violin (grand-daughter of composer) Lynnette Thredgold violin Leslie Harlow
viola Ellen Bridger cello
A Treasury of Chamber Music
- Heritage Series volume 1 TANTARA RECORDS 7 14861 00042 9 Brigham
Young University [48.04]
Leroy Robertson. Yes that's right. Not, Leroy Anderson (he of Typewriter
Serenade fame). Robertson is quite another proposition. Think of him as a
sort of Utah equivalent of Nebraska's Howard Hanson. As ever with these
'sound-a-like' comparisons I over-simplify. However this will give you some
idea of what to expect.
I discovered Robertson through a tape of the tuneful Violin Concerto (recorded
on Vanguard LP by Tossy Spivakovsky with the Utah S O conducted by Maurice
Abravanel). From this I went on to discover his big-boned, romantic and imposing
setting for soli, chorus and orchestra of The Book of Mormon (a touch
of Hanson's Song of Democracy and Lament of Beowulf) and the
more intimate American Serenade.
I was most enthusiastic to review this disc and was very pleased that Tantara
Records made a review copy available.
The Two Etudes are neatly contrasted. The first is a slow fantasy in a style
that veers variously towards John Ireland, Edward Macdowell and Eugene Goossens.
The odd wrong note harmony adds some zest to the proceedings which are liberally
dowsed in impressionistic grandeur. The second is a sparer and more urgent
event written while the composer was studying with Leichtentritt in Nazi
Berlin in the 1930s.
The Three Songs are most attractive. If you know the Joyce Book songs the
Irish lilt of Analogies and of Night Mood will recall both the Moeran and
the Bax songs. Joy shipmate Joy might easily have been a soul-partner to
Holst setting from the early 1900s. All will be welcome to anyone who enjoys
British song from the first quarter of the last century.
The Piano Quintet is soaked in the same language as the Howells Piano Quartet
(it is even in the same key) and the piano and quartet accompaniments of
the two Housman song-cycles by Ivor Gurney. There is also more than a trace
of the Hungarian csardas. The second movement is rather a Gothic, sorrowful
and lichen-hung. The finale sets tongues a-chatter and feet a-tapping. This
is an exultant essay light with the spirit of spring and ending in splashing,
shuddering and thrumming splendour. I did not detect the American western
spirit claimed for it by the notes. This speaks of a more subtle world-view
than Hollywood lead us to believe.
As for the American Serenade (second string quartet) it is dedicated to Ernest
Bloch who also loved the country of his adoption (recall the Vanguard recording
of his orchestral Rhapsody: America). The first movement is good partner
to Bax's First Quartet with a roughened shimmer more in common with high
the dizzying pastorals of Hungary. The music is not as light as you might
expect having a buzzing melos similar to the piano quintet. The nocturne
is pleasing if not mesmerising and the finale's pioneer fiddle-faddle is
as much about Hungary and Vienna as the Far West.
The most helpful notes are by Marian Robertson Wilson.
I recommend you explore the music of Leroy Robertson. You might well be very
agreeably surprised. Now will someone PLEASE reissue the Abravanel recording
of The Book of Mormon and the violin concerto. We also need fresh
recordings of the two symphonies and a host of other works.
KMB Music Office
PO Box 24498
Provo UTAH UT 84602-4498
info - 801 378 2563