Fanfare for the Common Man
Lincoln Portrait *
Canticle of Freedom
An Outdoor Overture
When Johnny Comes marching Home
* James Earl Jones
Seattle SO and Chorale / Gerard
DELOS DE 3140 [61.30]
The Fanfare is a work of lofty eminence written, we must not forget, by a
composer ridiculed and villified during the McCarthy era and then drawn back
into the 'establishment' fold in the 1960s. Schwarz gives an absolutely
overwhelming reading, positive and proceeding, as it should, at the pace
of hard-won and bloodied victory. The gong is superbly recorded.
The mood established, we pass over without a jarring note, into the Lincoln
Portrait last heard by me in the Vanguard recording with Abravanel and
Charlton Heston. Schwarz recreates the work amid grim victory and stormy
wild vistas, tunes (often hymn-like) rising like mist from the landscape,
perkily irreverent, unsubmissive.
The Canticle of Freedom is in Copland's populist vein written for
relatively unsophisticated forces. While nowhere near as gauche as Harris's
Folksong Symphony it has some of the garments of that work and of
Hanson's Song of Democracy. The words are printed in full in the booklet.
The bass drum 'crump' is solid and full of disruptive presence.
The Outdoor Overture is taken at a deliberate pace hotting up soon
and cooling for that 'prairie' trumpet cantillation - such a long tune -
a tune 'with legs'. The violin theme, at 4.38, is also notable. This celebration
of youth in ebullient vigour can be counted in company with the Moeran
Overture to a Masque and Sinfonietta. Schwarz gives a broad
account not without 'whipcrack' attention.
Now a change of composer and a shift to Roy Harris, condemned in the 'fifties
for his dedication of the Fifth Symphony to the people of the USSR.
American Creed is in two Whitman-esque slabs of music - Free to
Dream; Free to Build - running just over and just under seven
minutes. Dream has those Harris 'fingerprints': long string themes
danced around with woodwind solos which here become more Apollonian than
we might expect from knowing the symphonies. The sense is one of ascension,
of liberation, of wings extended and of soaring into a benevolent unknown
region. The Third Symphony's sentient and oratorical horn barks grip and
grasp nobility. Freedom to Build ends in tolling and regally crunching
horns. Overall, despite some impressive moments, this is not a work that
convinces in its entirety.
The Overture takes as its ubiquitous theme a song that the composer's father
sang as he and his young son went to the fields in the morning and returned
exhausted at the end of the day. It is given a cracker of a performance by
Schwarz and his Seattle orchestra. Group this with the Outdoor Overture
and the more populist Lambert, Bax and Moeran works of the 1940s.
Definitely a disc worth seeking out. While some of the oddments at the periphery
of the now aborted Seattle/Delos series are inconsequential (e.g. the
Grofe/Copland pops disc) this is a different matter altogether.