Chicago Pro Musica is an ensemble drawn from the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra. This 'two for the price of one' bargain CD offers
an eclectic mix of original works and arrangements, all brilliantly
performed and recorded with clarity and natural warmth. Occasionally
you can hear the players drawing breath, which creates the delightful
illusion of a live performance.
The programme note claims that the recording of Façade
performed here is 'an exact rendering' of the 1922 chamber original.
In fact the original was scored only for flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass
clarinet, trumpet, cello and percussion: for the first public performance
in 1923 Walton added alto saxophone, by which time he had also substantially
expanded the score. Twelve of the best-known numbers are selected for
this disc. Sparkling stuff, only lacking that last ounce of the composer's
sly wit and intimations of 'sleaze'. Weill's Threepenny Opera
Suite, Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale and Martinu's La Revue
de Cuisine are also brilliantly characterised. The influence of
jazz is common to all these works and it surfaces again in the eight
short movements of Music for a Farce (1938) by the American Paul
Bowles (born 1910).
Nielsen described his Serenata in Vano (scored
for clarinet, bassoon, horn, cello and double bass) as 'a humorous trifle',
which indeed it is. I have to confess that Varèse's tortuous
Octandre (1924) did nothing for me: a more informative programme
note might have helped.
No less interesting than the original works are the
three arrangements. Franz Hasenohrl's minimal version of Strauss's
Till Eulenspiegel (1954) is a remarkable piece: lasting a mere eight
minutes, it is scored for violin, clarinet, bassoon, horn and double
bass only, yet it retains both the shape and character of the original.
Easley Blackwood is a member of Chicago Pro Musica: he arranged Rimsky-Korsakov's
Capriccio Espagnol for piano and eight other instruments: an
These are highly enjoyable discs and warmly recommended.