who has bought and enjoyed previous Rorem discs in this
series (including symphonies, chamber music and songs)
might as well just click on the “Buy Now” link right away.
And anyone who is interested but hasn’t heard the previous
discs should do the same for this would be an excellent
place to start. Rorem’s soundworld is immediately accessible
and he is surely among the most interesting and worthwhile
of contemporary composers. These well-recorded discs with
near-definitive performances are one of the glories of
the Naxos American Classics series.
centre-piece flute concerto here receives it first recording
and hardly sounds like the work of a late-septuagenarian.
It was written for Jeffrey Khaner who is principal flute
of the Philadelphia Orchestra and apparently to address
a hole in the repertoire (OK – how many modern flute concertos
can you name?). The composer has written that he had difficulty
finding a title for the work – Suite, Six Pieces and Odyssey were
all eventually discarded in favour of ‘concerto’. Each
of the six movements has a title – (i) The Stone Tower,
(ii) Leaving-traveling-hoping, (iii) Sirens, (iv) Hymn,
(v) False Waltz and (vi) Résumé and Prayer. Relatively
large forces including a piano are needed but Rorem uses
them sparingly, notably in Hymn which is effectively a
quintet for piano and wind. Not obviously a vehicle for
virtuosity, it nevertheless makes many demands of Khaner
who meets them with aplomb and unfaltering tone. Long on
atmosphere and short on angst, there is ultimately a coherent
thread to this work which makes it compelling listening.
Violin Concerto is also in six named movements and, again,
the composer seems to have had some doubts about its concerto
status. Jaime Laredo gave the first performance and it
has been recorded before by Gidon Kremer (see review).
The generally darker nature of this work is reflected in
the titles: (i) Twilight, (ii) Toccata-Chaconne, (iii)
Romance without words, (iv) Midnight, (v) Toccata-Rondo,
(vi) Dawn. Nevertheless the Romance is quite lovely and
the day that finally dawns is probably going to work out
well enough. Philippe Quint’s rendition has both verve
concertos are preceded by another first recording – Pilgrims,
a prelude for string orchestra. In the booklet, José Serebrier
tells us that the idea for this work came in 1949 but it
was composed on a single day in September 1958. The title
is not what it might seem to be – this is in commemoration
of an adolescent schizoid who committed suicide. The music
has great depth of feeling and humanity.
words of praise are in order for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
Orchestra. Even if they presumably only got the job because
of the well-publicised difficulties of recording U.S. orchestras,
they certainly give this their collective all. Serebrier
is obviously in his element and the result is invariably
idiomatic. If you didn’t already click on the “Buy Now” link
above, there should be another below.
see also review by Rob Barnett
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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