Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1960-62) [27:05]
Die Natali, opus 37 (1960) [17:00]
Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance (1955) [12:41]
Commando March (1943) [3:07]
Stephen Prutsman, piano
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Marin Alsop
Recorded in the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, 10-11 May 2000, March 4,6,18 2001 and March 2002. DDD
NAXOS 8.559133 [60:32]



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In a series of recordings that has gone from unusual and interesting to groundbreaking and formidable, Naxos continues their survey of the works of American composers with this disc of orchestral pieces by Samuel Barber, who was perhaps the most accomplished American composer since Copland.

In stark contrast to the hauntingly lyrical concerto for violin, the piano concerto, conceived for the talents of pianist John Browning is a virtuoso tour de force, replete with thundering octaves, thick chordal passages and intricate counterpoint. The achingly melancholy middle movement is certainly a thing of beauty, but behind this beauty lies a palpable sadness. Stephen Prutsman is a fine soloist, clean and precise in his passagework, firm and forceful in bravura passages and, best of all, he has a lovely cantabile that he demonstrates to the fullest in the middle movement. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra accompany flawlessly with special recognition to the principal wind players for their outstanding solo work. Marin Alsop is a younger generation conductor to be reckoned with. She is in complete control of her ensemble. Her vision is clear and the precision that she elicits from the orchestra is vital and invigorating.

Die Natali, as the name implies, is a work based on Christmas tunes. Written at the behest of the Koussevitsky foundation in memory of the famous conductor and his wife, this suite was given its premiere by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1960. A complete charmer, this tender work is a refreshing alternative to the overly sentimental music typical of the holiday season. Ms. Alsop leads a beautifully paced reading.

Martha Graham should get double laurels for her contribution to American art. Her company was one of the most original and influential in the history of professional dancing, and as a result, she was able to inspire the creation of several musical masterworks. Perhaps Medea will not be remembered in its original guise, but certainly the tone poem that Barber distilled from his dance suite has become and will remain a staple of the orchestral repertoire. This is perhaps the composer’s most picturesque of scores. There is nothing in this reading to disappoint. Mysterious and grand, this a performance that can stand up to the famous readings by Bernstein and Schippers, and is a worthy addition to that panoply.

This excellent recital is rounded off with a rollicking rendition of the Commando March, written in 1943 for military band, it was later fully orchestrated by the composer. Seldom heard in concert, this would make a great addition to a patriotic program.

Recorded sound here is excellent. Richard Whitehouse’s notes are somewhat typical of what I have read of his in the past. His misuse of jargon is annoying as is his tendency to describe a work of art as if he were reciting a recipe. For so important a series of recordings, one would think that Naxos could do better.

Kevin Sutton



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