Schelomo (1915-16) Israel Symphony
Zara Nelsova (cello)
Utah SO/Maurice Abravanel
VANGUARD CLASSICS SVC 111HD
Schelomo receives its mead of barbarous
splendour at the hands of Nelsova and Abravanel. The recording is a shade
too warm but Nelsova (who recorded far too little) who studied the piece
with the composer demonstrates her familiarity and sympathy with the piece.
This is essential as Schelomo is one of those works that can easily seem
nondescript if the artists involved are unengaged. In that sense it is rather
like the Bax cello concerto (still awaiting its ideal exponent on disc).
This is Nelsova's second, recording of the work (1). The feverish grip of
the music is strongly asserted.
The Israel Symphony, like Schelomo, is a single movement although the work
falls into sections each of which Vanguard have banded. It does not share
the gaudy barbarity of Schelomo. I would place it in the company of the
symphonies of Respighi (Drammatica) and Dohnanyi (1 and 2) or indeed Bloch's
epic C Minor Symphony. He uses five solo voices in the finale and provided
words only to give the voices syllables to sing rather than the usual
vocalisations. In fact the score directs that the singers are to be placed
among the orchestra. The music is less self-consciously Semitic than in Schelomo.
Sidney Finkelstein's notes claim the splendour and turbulence of Biblical
times. I hear none of that but there is no mistaking the concise excitement
and generalised splendour (almost Mahlerian) of the Allegro agitato. The
Symphony is not otherwise available.
This decently recorded disc is certainly well worth seeking out.
(1) Nelsova's first recording is on Jewish Musical Heritage Recordings SMHR
CD015 - CD can be ordered from the Trust for £13.49 plus £1 Post
and Packing in UK and £2 outside UK. Phone 0181 909 2445 Fax 0181 909
1030. E-mail enquiries to