Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Concertato - Moby Dick10.53
Symphony No. 3 20.28
Symphony No. 7 Variation-Symphony 26.11
Seattle SO/Gerard Schwarz
DELOS DE 3164 [57.32]
  Amazon US

Jim Svejda's notes are extensive and candid. They remark that Mennin (originally 'Mennini' as Pistone became Piston and 'Guttoveggio' became Creston) wrote music devoid of humour and charm. In its place there is an alertness and a clamorous attention to lyrical line and rhythmic inventiveness.

The overture-sized Moby Dick 'Concertato' arose from Mennin reading the novel after someone had sent him a 'Moby Dick' libretto for a proposed opera. Like all the best pieces of literary-inspired music the work is driven by the generalised impact of the great story rather than portrayal of particular incidents.

The Third Symphony, and this performance of it, has the harsh propulsion and unleashed excitement of the Vaughan Williams' Fourth Symphony. While this version does not have the aggressive velocity of the Mitropoulos account on CRI it is in infinitely superior audio quality. Listen to the griping of the horns and the superbly contrived depth of the sound. The Seventh again lacks the out and out dynamism of the Martinon version, now residing on CRI, but is so much better recorded that its dissonant Bergian eloquence is heard to better effect both in the largo-like stretches and in the two 'on-your-toes' allegros.

This is a very good disc representative of one of America's toughest and steeliest symphonists and is a mandatory purchase for the best sound. Personally I would go for the CRI not only because of the virility of the interpretations but also for the even more generous coupling. In place of the Concertato you get the Piano Concerto in a blow-torch of a performance from John Ogdon.

Rob Barnett

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