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Nicolas FLAGELLO (1928-1994)
Missa Sinfonica (1957) [34:37]
Arnold ROSNER (b. 1945)

Symphony No. 5 Missa sine Cantoribus super Salve Regina (1973) [40:08]
National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/John McLaughlin Williams
rec. Large Concert Studio, National Radio Company of Ukraine (Kiev), 14-18 June 2006. DDD

Here are two grandly proportioned and lavishly stated American symphonies. They are expressed in serious but by no means glum language. Each is in five movements and each follows the schema of the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass. They are for orchestra alone.

In spirit these works link with Rubbra, Vaughan Williams, Martinů and Hovhaness. Loosely grouped they can be seen as companions to Creston's Third Symphony and Hanson's Fourth which also follow, more or less closely, the Requiem pattern.

Flagello's Missa Sinfonica arcs from a sturdily Rubbra-like Kyrie with echoes of the aspirational pilgrimage of Hanson's Sixth Symphony to a plunging and catchily playful Gloria soon lost in romantic wonderment (4:26). The statuesque Credo is earnestly reflective, somewhat in the spirit of Vaughan Williams but with a more overtly romantic sensibility. Then comes the sparkling Sanctus with its rhythmic vigour paralleling that of the Gloria but with a curvaceous grand melodic underpinning that bridges, with a natural continuity of pulse, to the Agnus Dei finale. This is romantic (3:20) but firm as the roots of the mountain and enduringly memorable for its lyrical heft and clamantly grasped majesty. The final fade recalls the confident abnegation of Vaughan Williams 5 and Rubbra 4.

Arnold Rosner's Fifth Symphony has practically the same movement structure and names. As we know from the frugal catalogue of his works on record Rosner's music is serious, shot through with light, borne up by melody and ever distant from triviality. The neo-modal accents cannot help but become entangled in a redolence of Vaughan Williams - especially his Fifth Symphony, Pilgrims Progress and Tallis Fantasia. Hovhaness is also within hailing distance. Try the start of the Credo with its shades of the Armenian-American composer's various meditative-invocatory works for solo brass instrument and orchestra. There is also a spirit of Tudor dance which no doubt links with Rosnerís opera The Chronicle of Nine (1984). In the Agnus Dei the language bows in endearment towards Nielsen (symphonies 5 and 3) and to Vaughan Williams (symphonies 5, 8, 9). Its climax streams through the heavens, suffusing the firmament with an extended and sustained orison. This work represents a peaceful blessing bestowed on a cruel world. This is in contrast to the Flagello which keeps a Barber-like emotional turmoil in its tread. Rosner should be treasured as much as Ronald Stevenson whose Ben Dorain has recently been premiered in Glasgow. Letís hope he is performed more often than has to date been Stevensonís fate.

Make it your business to hear these symphonies. If you have any affection for the crudely drawn comparison works I have given will find these symphonies rewarding miracles of melodic expression.

The notes are confided to us by Walter Simmons and Arnold Rosner. John McLaughlin Williams and his orchestra took trouble over four days in Kiev to give us concentrated, communicative and not careful accounts of these emotionally imposing works.

Rob Barnett

Other Flagello Reviews on MusicWeb
Other Rosner Reviews on MusicWeb


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