Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Incredible Flutist suite (1938) 17.50
Fantasy for English horn. harp and strings (1954) 8.28
Suite for Orchestra (1929) 14.23
Concerto for String Quartet, wind instruments and percussion (1976) 9.57
Psalm and Prayer of David (1959) 17.09
Juilliard String Quartet (in the Concerto)
Seattle SO and Chorale/Gerard Schwarz
rec 1991/92 DELOS DE 3126 [68.09]

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The Incredible Flutist is a score crowded with incident. These encompass a jazzy stomp, Arabian woodwind filigree, auto-klaxon barks from the brass (Arrival of the Circus), a coaxed expansive lyricism to the point of sentimentality (Tango), a mercifully brief brash march, an equally unsubtle Polka, an easeful hymn to high noon (The Flutist), and a sequence of popular dances (a la Barber's Souvenirs). These sum up the variety of Piston's landmark score. The Incredible Flutist suite is presented with a love that is patent and affecting. A lovely performance and recording.

The overture-size Fantasy for English Horn (similar duration to the Concerto) was premiered at Boston by Munch and is of a Gallic sensibility roving into the 'art nouveau' world of Charles Griffes in his White Peacock.

Next come Piston's first and last works for orchestra. The three movement Suite is rife with crowded action - a cubist approximation of the hustle and bustle of Piston's milieu in the bars and hotels of Boston; an unwitting counterpart to Weill and Eisler's Germany. But this is not the end of the story for the andante sings of rest and regeneration both in the English Horn solo and in its orchestal material. The classically fugal finale is rife with darting antiphonal effects.

The String Quartet Concerto is most warmly recorded and performed but its gentle dissonances and distorted world do not hold immediate attractions. The work was written for the Portland Quartet whose interpretation of the composer's 4th quartet impressed him so much.

The Psalm and Prayer is Piston's only religious work. Piston had no religious faith and even banned Christmas decorations from the home. However rather like the similarly-inclined Vaughan Williams this was no obstacle to a successful and sincere setting of Psalms 96 and 86. The sound of the choir recalls Howard Hanson's Eastman Choir for his Mercury recording of Lament of Beowulf.

The notes (in English only) are helpful although they omit the words of the two Psalms.

Rob Barnett

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