Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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ANTHONY LOUIS SCARMOLIN (1890-1969) orchestral works (1919-1964) *Janacek PO/Joel Eric Suben Slovak RSO/ Joel Eric Suben rec 1995 and 1996 in Slovakia and the Czech Republic NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559012 [75.08]

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The Caliph - Dance (1948) *
Three Miniatures (1920) *
Three Preludes (1995)
The Sunlit Pool (1951)
Invocation (1947)
Variations on a Folk Song (1953)
Arioso for strings (1953)
Concert Piece for trumpet and strings (1962)
Prelude (1964) *

Scarmolin was Italian-born but came with his family to New Jersey when he was 10. Early infatuation with atonalism was soon abandoned and he returned to composition in a richly tonal idiom. There are some 1100 compositions and a Scarmolin Trust who, I hope, will go on to support recordings of his other works including the symphonies.

The Dance from The Caliph is a typical Nautch Girl dance - swaying and winding seductively in Arabian pirouette and with a lightly convulsive Hispanic snap (yes, complete with castanets). Over it all hangs a Verdian operatic cloak.

The Three Miniatures are lightly handled in the manner of Alfven's Midsommarvarka and Shepherd Fennel's Dance (Balfour Gardiner)

The Preludes (orch by John Sichel): Night at Sea bursts into flowering filmic lyricism in a way suggestive of Frank Bridge's Summer, The Story of My Heart or Enter Spring and the magnificent sea music of Philip Sainton (Moby Dick): salty memories indeed of marine glory and sun-dappled waves. Snowdrift is tentative and lightly impressionistic. White Meadows dates from 1954 unlike the other two preludes and rates high on aestival lyricism.

The Sunlit Pool floats in warm melody with again a touch of the sunnier Bridge and of Bax in Happy Forest and Spring Fire. It also reminded me of another composer whose music I have encountered recently: Alfred Hill. Hill's multitude of short orchestral poems are often in a similar impressionistic vein.

Invocation announces itself as a more serious piece with ambitious emotional span and Debussian aspirations. Its opening bars, which rear up several times, have a Brahmsian weight and storminess and a Rózsa-like exaltation.

The Folk Song Variations are for strings and take as their subject a Piedmontese song of simple pleasures played with a hint of Palm Court schmaltz. Also for strings the Arioso resounds in Elgarian eloquence similar to the Serenade.

The trumpet Concert Piece is cheekily perky and winningly positive even in repose; not at all the sacerdotal role cherished by Alan Hovhaness in his similar pieces.

Prelude shares some of the atmosphere of The Sunlit Pool and, pace the notes, seems written in the same warm drifting fragrance which awakes close to Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet and at other times near Delius's smaller tone poems. A more colourful title perhaps exists in Scarmolin's archives.

The Czech musicians seem to handle this unfamiliar material well although once or twice I wondered if a more vibrant pulse might have helped the music along.

Intrinsically this is attractive music of a largely light character.

The notes, by John Sichel, are helpful in providing the orientation we need with this unfamiliar music: attractive - definitely - but not arresting. I certainly would like to hear more. If you have enjoyed the British light music series then you will want this and are unlikely to be disappointed.


Rob Barnett

NOTE TO NAXOS: I do hope that the series advisers will consider a recording of the music of Leroy Robertson. His violin concerto is a work of a Hansonian caste and virtuosity - an easy winner.


Rob Barnett

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