Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Symphony No. 1 Sinfonia de Antigona (1932)
Symphony No. 2 Sinfonia India  (1935-36)
Symphony No. 4 Sinfonia Romantica (1953)
Stadium SO of New York/Carlos Chavez rec 1959

These recordings are significant documents in 20th century music. The composer conducts his own music but how well does these hold up as enjoyable musical events?

Chavez was born near Mexico City. In 1926-28 he spent time in New York meeting both Copland and Varèse. The influences of both can be discerned in Sinfonia India especially Copland. The 'traffic' was duplex with Copland's El Salon Mexico inspired by the North American's stay with Chavez in 1932. The Chavez is uproarious and spangled with strange percussion effects drawn from Indian drums, water gourd, rasps, rattle and cymbals on top of the usual orchestral complement.

The first two symphonies are each about as long as a standard concert overture - circa 10 minutes. Antigona is more tonally exploratory than India. Surely this is the influence of Varèse and Schoenberg. The themes are modal and the insistent use of the harp, defiantly up-rearing banks of string music and the gaunt and tough brass make this an uncomfortable listen. The work plays out to the antique strains of the plucked harp and a long held note.

The Romantica is not to be equated with Hanson's Romantic Symphony. It was commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra and conducted, at its premiere, by the composer. It marries up some uncompromising dissonances with a lapping lyrical theme in the first movement,

The orchestra is the New York PO playing under the name it used for summer seasons at the Lewisohn Stadium, New York.

Recording quality is pretty good though not as refined as the Vaughan Williams 9 or Sibelius Violin Concerto discs.

Starred for the India and Romantica tracks. The Romantica is a tougher nut to crack with its appealing moments set in a sea of dissonance.

Rob Barnett


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