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Meditations on Ecclesiastes
(1956) [30.14]

Psalm and Fugue
for String Orchestra (1940) [10.10]
Shepherd of Israel
(1952) [15.46]

Responses, Hosanna and Fugue
(1977) [20.06]
Philharmonia Orchestra/David Amos
rec Nov 1990, CBS Studios, London, United Kingdom

I have been unable to provide any link to this disc - not even on the HM website

These are four works that are kith and kin in their entwining around chant and a highly unfashionable allegiance to richly ornamented string writing.

This disc is not currently available but a reissue is very likely - presumably from the Kleos label.

Dello Joio's Pulitzer award winning Meditations is written in densely drenched harmonies twisted through the spectrum by Bergian ecstasy. This is of such intensity that it tips over into anguish. It is not music of Oriental inclination (not Hovhaness; not Bloch) rather do we veer reflectively between Finzi-Barber and Shostakovich's writing for strings. The Spumante movement revels in the debonair flush of Britten's Simple Symphony. However this is overwhelmingly a work of inwardness and brooding and the effect is brilliantly carried off by the Philharmonia aided by the open-minded engagement of David Amos and the solo 'voices' of Hugh Bean (remember his Lark Ascending with Boult and his brilliant broadcast Bax Violin Concerto) and the solo cello of David Jones.

The Hovhaness Psalm and Fugue is less complex harmonically but more sustained and stylistically coherent than the still affecting Dello Joio work. The performance is sturdy rather than incandescent. Here speaks a composer utterly in thrall to tonality - at least until he began to explore the wilder regions in his Vishnu symphony and in Mountains and Rivers Without End. Here the composer represents an exotic Vaughan Williams branching out from Flos Campi via chant and descanting melisma.

How good it is to hear Kenneth Smith's solo flute arabesquing over quadruple piano pizzicato of the violins in Shepherd of Israel. Smith's two volumes of British flute music are worth seeking out. Listen to his miraculous breath control in the Pastoral [2.30] comparable to the sustained fall and rise of the words 'Sweet Harmony' in Vaughan Williams' blissful Serenade to Music (Sheila Armstrong with Boult, not yet excelled, in my experience). Hovhaness's trademark pizz are much in evidence and underscore the singing of the cantor, Sheldon Merel. The conjuring of mood, line and tone are perfectly handled by all concerned and it is no surprise that the trumpet vies with voice as cantor in the final section - leading, reminding, exhorting, imploring.

Rosner's Responses, Hosanna and Fugue is a deeply affecting work and yet another discovery among the Rosner output. Here he is close to RVW's Tallis though no thrall. There are no obvious oriental paraphs. Light floods these pages with high candle-power. Solo lines float effortlessly out of a stern textural blanket and rhapsodically carry the argument forward. Karen Vaughan's harp informs the proceedings but the starring role is that of the plenary string 'church'. Rosner's music settles like a benison on our culture. That such music was written in 1977 contra torrentum is proof of Rosner's loyalty to his own voices rather than the transiently fashionable claque. It is typical of Rosner that he ends with a light breath - no gaudy peroration.

The recording is warmly bathed - suitable to the often saturated string writing and yet has the transparency essential to the crystal structures of the Rosner.

Rob Barnett

These are four works kith and kin in their entwining around chant and highly unfashionable allegiance to richly ornamented string writing.


The other volumes in the Modern Masters series were:-

I HMU 906010 Rozsa Tripartita; Gould Folk Suite; Menotti Triplo Concerto a Tre Lavry Emek. Now reissued on the Kleos label and available direct from DI Music - details from me.

II HMU 906011 Ward-Steinman Concerto No. 2 for chamber orchestra; Turok Threnody; Dello Joio Lyric Fantasies; Cowell Hymn; Creston Partita.

All were conducted by David Amos but a different orchestra is used for each disc. I: London Symphony Orchestra; II City of London Sinfonia.

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