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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Judith (1949) 23.41
Eastman Philharmonia/David Effron
Night Journey (1947) 21.28
Endymion Ensemble/Jon Goldberg
In Sweet Music (1978) 
Rosalind Rees (soprano)/Orpheus Trio 24.54
rec 1983, 1981, 1980.

Amazon US

Schuman's 'hand' is unmistakable. The haunted, whispering and attentuated strings, the tension built and held, the gale-blown or breezily strident sassy woodwind, the explosive energetic brass barks and towering monoliths, the counterpoint of lean and slow-moving lyrical ideas against quicker material. This is clearly on display in Judith which is replete with the gestures by which we know Schuman from the violin concerto and the symphonies 3-6.

Night Journey is for 15 instruments rather than the full orchestra deployed in Judith. It lacks the ultimate decibel-level impact of the later work with which it shares the same subtitle: 'choreographic poem'. It is more Bergian than Judith. The piano is prominent. The score is spikier and its undoubted tenderness is packaged in angular wrappings. Schuman could easily have struck off down a much less lyrical corridor from this work if he had wanted to.

Both Judith and Night Journey were dance scores written for Martha Graham.

Rosalind Rees is phenomenal in In Sweet Music: steady and transparent of tone and diction. Time drips slowly like honey in this steadily rhapsodic Shakespeare setting. Rees is accompanied by flute, viola and harp. Its reference points include Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 noticeable in its undulating dreamy melisma. A diaphanous atonal mist hangs in threads and ribbons over this late work.

Mildly astringent in all but Judith, CRI have presented listeners with a valuable collection well worth the attention of the Schumanphile, the collector of Graham scores and the pursuer of American 20th century classical music.

Judith is vintage Schuman. An imperative addition for anyone captivated by the violin concerto or third symphony.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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