Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


A. Louis SCARMOLIN (1890-1969)
The Caliph - An Arabian episode in one act (1948) based on 'An Arabian Day' by Justin Huntly McCarthy to a libretto by Carleton Stevens Montayne.
Maria Harpner (sop)
Bruce Brown (bar)
Margarete Jungen (mezzo)
Dietmar Kerschbaum (ten)
Steven Gallop (bass)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Joel Eric Suben
rec. 5-8 May 1997, Concert Hall, Slovak Radio, Bratislava. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2504 [59.52]

Scarmolin wrote more than a thousand works. He lived in New Jersey but this was his adopted home having been born in Italy and arriving in the USA in 1900. His compositional language is firmly within the perimeter defined by Korngold, Puccini, Rachmaninov and Strauss though in few cases does he rise to their gorgeous saturation.

His works are represented on an orchestral collection on Naxos (one of the earliest instalments in the Naxos American Classics series). The two symphonies (again conducted by Suben) are on New World.

He wrote eight operas, two in English, the remainder in his native Italian. This is one of the two English language operas. It lasts just under an hour. Its dimensions place it firmly in the mould of Lennox Berkeley's A Dinner Engagement and Castaway. There is a hint of Arabian exotica in the occasional melisma. Much of the vocal singing reminded me of the Tchaikovskian romance of Hamilton Harty's superb Ode to a Nightingale though without the heavily dripping textures. This plays as a serious opera - with no hint of the sort of delicious cleverness to be found in Barber's A Hand of Bridge. If it is close to any Barber it is to Antony and Cleopatra but hardly ever does Scarmolin flatten us with an orchestral tutti. He is much more apt to create a gauzy Straussian filigree. Ali Hassan's lovelorn tenor aria 'Over the world the morning drives its chariot of light' is one of several lightly coloured highlights. If you appreciate Arabian Nights entertainments played for sincerity rather than parody you will find plenty to enjoy in this. The cast is strong and, going by the recording dates, meticulous care was taken in preparation and session work.

The work is agreeably divided into fifteen tracks so it is easily navigable. The booklet gives a little sketch of Scarmolin's background but otherwise all 18 pages are given over to the libretto.

If you appreciate Arabian Nights entertainments played for sincerity rather than parody you will find plenty to enjoy in this. Another surprising dimension to the riches of the American musical legacy.

Rob Barnett

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