SAMUEL BARBER (1910-81)
Essay No. 2 for Orchestra (1942) 10.07
Music for a Scene from Shelley (1933) 8.52
A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map (1940) 5.46
A Hand of Bridge - chamber opera (1959) 9.30
Serenade for Strings (1929) 8.47
Adagio for Strings 5.58
Symphony of the Air/Vladimir Golschmann
rec 1960 VANGUARD CLASSICS USA SVC 123 (08401671)[49.55]
Omega's systematic reissuing of the Vanguard and Everest catalogues shows
great care and attention to detail. Technical and artistic details are well
handled although I wish that precise session dates were given. They do not
flinch from helpful consumer information such as the total playing time of
their discs which in this case is shorter than you might have hoped. This
is not however a premium price disc so you can easily make allowances.
The collection has classic status and is one which apart from the Adagio
(a short filler) will be recognised from the LP era (VSD2083).
Golschmann (1893-1972) directs a luxuriantly expansive anthology of the shorter
works. Essay No. 2 is broad and warm - epic in feel and symphonic
in approach. Its parallels are to be found in Bax (Northern Ballads 1 and
2) and Sibelius but typically superheated and tormented. The Shelley Scene
is a febrile dream rising to a lovingly coaxed climax influenced by Sibelius
and Richard Strauss. It is not far distant from the Essay in style though
A Stopwatch is for male voices, percussion and brass and sets Stephen
Spender's sorrowing poem for someone killed in the Spanish Civil War. This
is determined and angry music which reminded me of the Angel of Death music
in Dona Nobis Pacem by Vaughan Williams.
A Hand of Bridge to a libretto by Menotti is Barber's true chamber
opera - short (less than ten minutes) and economically scored. There are
only four singers. The plot takes its tension from the deadly routine of
a nightly game of bridge and the inner thoughts of the four players. The
wordplay and musical setting is irresistible - this should not be missed
by any admirers of Sondheim's music theatre.
The Serenade is an early and pleasant but unmemorable work in which
I hear more of the central European models of Reger and Schmidt than anything
terribly distinctive or memorable. The Adagio (not Golschmann but Antonio
Janigro and the Solisti di Zagreb recorded in 1962) is suitably broad.
Comparisons are not directly available at least not as a single identical
In some ways it is difficult to place this collection. It is not Barber's
'greatest hits' apart from the Adagio. The Essay and Shelley Scene are big
Barber, bruisingly romantic, A Stopwatch is spare and serious, A Hand of
Bridge is a brilliant psychological play while the Serenade is good to have
but is unlikely to draw you back again. The collection is valuable as a
challenging and intrinsically satisfying sampler. If you warm to the first
two tracks go on to the other two essays and the symphonies.
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Antar - Symphonic Suite (1868) 29.19
IPPOLITOV-IVANOV Caucasian Sketches (1894) 22.02
GLIERE Russian Sailors' Dance (1927) 3.26
Utah SO/Maurice Abravanel
rec 1967, Salt Lake City, Utah
VANGUARD CLASSICS USA SVC 8
Abravanel is very good in this music - crackling with energy tempered with
a tender way with the great melodies. Antar is a neglected prize among Rimsky's
works ranking with Sheherazade. The orchestra is brilliant, hoarse and visceral
in the brass, flighty and impetuous wind section (the brilliance of flute
clearly inspired Glazunov in his ballet The Seasons) and only among the strings
which could have benefited from a shade more warmth and tonal allure are
there the slightest reservations. The ideal is to be found in BMG-Melodiya's
twofer of the three Rimsky symphonies with Sheherazade. The Caucasian Sketches
is a popular work of which enigmatically there are few recordings.
The Caucasian Sketches have These You Have Loved status because of its last
movement Procession of the Sardar but the big first movement In The Mountain
Pass is wistful, In the Village exotically rhapsodic from sinuous (recalling
the tar and duduk of Georgia) to a quicker and irresistible dance tempo,
In the Mosque rather nondescript but in the Procession is established the
idiom for a thousand Hollywood triumphal and barbarous marches. From such
quarries did Jarre mine the music for Lawrence of Arabia and Rozsa for El
The Gliere is a fun piece that stamps emphatically and in its opening measures
is clearly influenced by Mussorgsky's Pictures from an Exhibition.
As an inexpensive single disc collection of less obvious Russian repertoire
this is difficult to top. I recommend it strongly for the. (c) Rob Barnett
FOUR AND A HALF STARS
NETANIA DAVRATH (1931-87)
sings RUSSIAN, YIDDISH, ISRAELI FOLKSONGS
42 songs in orchestral arrangements
VANGUARD CLASSICS OVC 8058/9
This is somewhat outside my usual field. I was tempted into this material
by Davrath's lissom voice. She is of course the singer the prime and unmissable
collection of Canteloube songs (available in a two disc set from Vanguard).
Her voice is tender, strong, nasal, arch, shy, abandoned, free from vibrato,
pure and clean and distinctly un-operatic. She has that platinum quality
of voice that is unsophisticated and girlishly innocent. Going by track record
this is not something that can be taught. You either have it or you don't.
Davrath's facility in eight languages undoubtedly aids her interpretations
which are always intelligent and which do not give the impression of being
There are 13 Russian songs, 15 Yiddish and 14 Israeli. The origins tie in
with the singer's life travels: born in Ukraine, moved to Caucasus, the to
Israel. There is too much territory to cover so let me single out The Birch
Tree (the theme used in Tchaikovsky 4), Moscow Nights (Dr Zhivago), Chassidic
Melody with its catchy refrain, Es Brent, a lament for scorched earth, touching
in Reizele and Viglied.
Robert deCormier is the conductor and arranger of the Russian and Yiddish
folksongs. There are various arrangers for the Israeli songs and a single
conductor Josef Leo Gruber. Some of the arrangements are less than sensitive
but then again you encounter poetic and far from obvious treatment as in
the Hinach Yafa as prepared by Y Admon. The smile in Davrath's voice is in
heart-warming evidence in Ad Shefayu'ach Yom.
The Russian songs are arranged with accordion and balalaika to the fore.
The Yiddish songs make fuller use of the orchestra which as in the case of
the peerless Canteloube set remains anonymous - presumably a pick-up band.
Perhaps someone can throw some light on the musicians involved in the NYC
and Vienna sessions?
The tracks were recorded between Nov 1959 and May 1962 in New York City and
Vienna. Davrath is intimately balanced as against the instrumentalists. Her
voice can stand this very easily.
A splendid and generous collection or all admirers of Davrath's art and the
crystal stream of folk music. Hearing these songs one is struck again by
the tragedy that Davrath did not go on to record Canteloube's voluminous
settings of folksongs from all over the world. Maria Bayo has a touch of
the Davrath in her voice and I hope that she might be tempted to filling
the aching void left by Davrath. (c) Rob Barnett