Concerto Grosso for string quartet and string orchestra
Prelude and Fugue
Andante Languido (1959)
Serenata per Orchestra
New Russia Orchestra/David
rec 31 Aug - 2 Sept 1994,
ALBANY RECORDS TROY 143
It is one of the delights of this site that one gets to recommend discs that
elsewhere are disdained for no virtuous reason. This is one of those experiences.
Territory: American romantic. Closer to Barber than to Hanson. More Mediterranean
than Scandinavian. More Walton than Moeran.
Vittorio Giannini and his pupil Nicolas Flagello stand with Creston
and Menotti as exemplars of the Italian tradition. Flagello reviews can be
found grouped elsewhere on this site. Giannini is devastatingly poorly
represented in the catalogue. I know his symphonies from scrawny radio broadcasts
but even through all the aural chaff I have known that he has a voice of
lyric power, tortured and ecstatic.
Giannini's Concerto Grosso is the blessed antithesis of the
desiccated neo-classical tendency that swept bloodlessly through the twentieth
century. It is a work of passion, power and warmth. This is big-boned music
for strings with its blood brethren in the Elgar Introduction and
Allegro, the Bliss Music for Strings and At the Haunted End
of the Day from Walton's Troilus and Cressida. The still centre
is a Moderato as long as the two flanking movements put together.
I urge you to hear this work which has a quartet in loquaciously juicy dialogue
with the full string body. The giddy romance of the Prelude decked
in gorgeous polyphonic finery takes us towards Barber's Adagio and
Finzi's string music while the Fugue leads us breathlessly through
the terraced antiphonal fields of the Elgar.
Flagello's music is collegiate with Giannini's. However his 'take'
on the lyrical stream broods in chilly reverie. This is certainly true of
the Andante Languido (and the Siciliana of the Serenata)
which is the second movement of the Concerto for String Orchestra (a
pity that space was not found for the whole work - it would have paired neatly
with the Giannini Concerto Grosso). It rises to an angry intensity
before subsiding - all passion spent. The Serenata, after six tracks
of music for string band takes us into a four movement 'dream vision' scored
for chamber orchestra although the orchestra in fact sounds generously specified.
The Psalmus (note that Giannini wrote a symphonic-scale Psalm for
cello and strings) is a relaxed nostalgic hymn and his mastery of
instrumentational effect is never ever in doubt - listen to the master-stroke
of the solo horn at 3.45 (track 7). This music resounds with agreeable Mid-West
visions like those warm Aestival evenings suggested by Barber's Knoxville
and if the Passe-Pied is Stravinsky-inflected this is no flaccid
archaic exercise. Listen to the swinging attack of the strings (4.01) in
the Siciliana and the heavyweight grunt and thud in the Giga.
A joyous zest guided Flagello's hand in the Giga. Do not be put off
by these movement titles either.
After Giannini and Flagello you may well be steeling yourself for transition
to over-the-top slice of kitschery from Gould. Not a bit of it.
Harvest is a transatlantic partner to Schoeck's own harvest piece
Sommernacht. The work is scored for strings, harp and that instrument
that forms the hallmark of Roy Harris's epic symphonies, the vibraphone.
There is not a cheap-shot in sight and the polyphonic and harmonic collisions,
the rapid yearning strokes and the vibraphone's sustaining glow evince lessons
learnt at Harris's feet. Played as an 'innocent ear' item I would 'unerringly'
have identified this as some lost work by Roy Harris. It is lovely; lovingly
balanced and played by the artists. Much as the first 8 minutes are in debt
to Harris so the final 4 minutes sheer off towards a Copland hoe-down and
the gingham celebrations of Harris's Folksong Symphony (No. 4). The
vibraphone's lambent echo closes a masterly slice of Americana.
David Amos, the Vernon Handley of the American repertoire, never does anything
by halves. He and his orchestra obliterate any suspicion that these sessions
would be time-server events. The Russian Orchestra sounds big and sounds
caught up in the 'action'. No short change here.
There is good cause also to thank the Shiseido
Corporation who financially supported this