Missa Sinfonica (1957)
[34:37] Arnold ROSNER (b.
Symphony No. 5 ‘Missa sine Cantoribus super
Salve Regina’ Op. 57 (1973) [40:08]
Radio Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/John McLaughlin Williams
rec. Large Concert Studio, National Radio Company of Ukraine
(Kiev), 14-18 June 2006. DDD
Notes by Walter Simmons and Arnold Rosner NAXOS 8.559347 [74:45]
symphonies on this disc are both by New York composers who
went against the atonal tide and both were written early
on in their composers’ careers. But the real point of concurrence
is that they are both masses for orchestra without chorus.
Each is in five movements that correspond to the five sections
of the Ordinary of the mass. Each is in its own way influenced
by the emotions inherent in each section of the mass as well
as using actual plainchant as the musical material from which
the work is fashioned.
Flagello’s symphony is full of deep feeling not all of its
movements correspond to what one might think of as regards
the term “mass”. The opening of the symphony is dark and
almost despairing - appropriate to asking for mercy. The
movement is developed sequentially, rather along the lines
of the Hanson “Requiem” Symphony. But the second movement
(Gloria) is scherzo-like and even playful, with a delicate “trio” and
almost cinematic return of the opening material. This recurring
cinematic aspect is one of the main drawbacks of the entire
work. The third movement is a return to the mood of the first
with the plainchant material developed in a hymn-like manner
leading to an impressive climax. Like the second movement
the fourth is in the manner of a scherzo, but this time it
is more mysterious, almost a continuous proclamation of the
Holy, Holy, Holy”. The last movement is definitely the most
beautiful and the most original. It ends the symphony in
a definitive fashion and points to where the composer would
go in the future.
Rosner’s Symphony No. 5 adds another element to the idea
of a symphonic mass based on plainchant: the musico-historic.
His symphony is a homage to the procedures and styles of
the polyphonic composers he greatly admires. In his first
movement development is not as central as it is in the Flagello
work - archaic qualities, forward motion and modality are
important. The second movement is something of a rondo in
which a phrase from the original plainchant is hammered home
repeatedly. The Credo third movement is extremely attractive,
like that in the Flagello and most mirrors the music of the
golden age of polyphony, but it is the fourth movement that
really struck home with me: the opening is lovely and the
material returns several times, each time more beautifully
treated than before, leading to a triumphant coda. By contrast,
the last movement unfolds organically, though with equally
beautiful treatment of the plainchant before ending quietly.
McLaughlin Williams here turns in two of his best performances
on Naxos. While his affinity for American music is a given
he really enters into the individual sound-world of each
composer on this disc. In addition, he draws quite subtle
performances from the Kiev players, who excel themselves,
and he is aided by his international cast of producers and
engineers. The authoritative notes are by Rosner himself
and by long-time Flagello proponent Walter Simmons. In all,
a labor of love from all concerned.
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