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Len Mullenger:

Edwin CARR
Symphony No 4 (1993) 25.27
Promenade (1986) 18.41
Sinfonietta (1979) 14.30
Pacific Festival Overture (1986) 7.27
New Zealand SO/Kenneth Young
rec Tory St, Wellington, NZ
CONTINUUM CCD 1077 [66.05]

The Fourth Symphony dashes onto the scene with gusto and rumpus. If you know the opening orchestral bars of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd evocative of a heartless city thudding with callous Stravinskian energy then you are pretty much prepared for Carr's introduction. It does not have the chaotic wash of Mossolov but is somewhat mechanistic in a way similar to Prokofiev in the Scythian Suite cut across with material from the Kurt Weill symphonies. The ticking allegro scherzando like a lively shifting spider web prepares the way for a predominantly lyrical Allegretto - Housman's 'Grecian Lad' staring into the still lakes of the New Zealand highlands. The jaunty tight rhythmic clatter of the finale again prompts memories of the (rather wonderful) Weill symphonies allowing for a look cast back over the shoulder toward the Allegretto. Carr was a pupil of Benjamin Frankel and there is some slight resemblance in the light-handed dissonance of a few parts of the score. Overall though nothing to frighten the horses and much to ingratiate.

The Promenade ballet (eight numbers) sparkles charmingly (and with grace) like some Francophile companion to Samuel Barber's Souvenirs suite and to Sondheim's and Nicholas Flagello's waltz fantasies. The Sinfonietta is the earliest of the works on the disc. Of its four movements only the fourth exceeds four minutes. The second movement is cut from the same bubbling cloth as Promenade but both the first and third are serious, the third in particular is gravely elegiac. The finale is skittish with emphasis on the woodwind. Likeable music leaning in the direction of neo-classical Respighi. The overture celebrated Carr's sixtieth birthday in 1986. It is a Blissy 'jeu d'esprit' not without some of Bliss's sense of darkness as well as his flightiness. It would go well in company with Howard Ferguson's Overture for an Occasion and the Walton concert overtures. The countryside tune at 2.40 suggests inspiration from Copland (Appalachian Spring and Outdoor Overture).

When we see Murray Khouri's name as producer we know that we are in safe hands. Everything is clearly lit without dazzle but not lacking power.

Rob Barnett


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