Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Leo SOWERBY (1895-1968)
Concert Overture (1941) [7.51]
Passacaglia, Interlude and Fugue (1932) [16.12]
All on a Summer's Day (1954) [12.21]
Symphony No. 2 (1928) [24.00]
Czech National SO/Paul Freeman
Chicago Sinfonietta/Paul Freeman
rec 21-24 Oct 1996, studios Czech National Radio, Prague except Symphony 2 April 1997, Trinity High School, River Forest, Illinois
ÇÉDILLE CDR 90000 039 [60.51]

Cedille Records 

These are, with the exception of All on a Summer's Day, world premiere recordings.

Sowerby is least unknown for his organ and church choral music. His orchestral music has been difficult to track down though there was the isolated LP including one from the 1950s in which the Vienna Symphony read through both Prairie and From the Northland. This disc was released in 1998 marking Sowerby's 102nd birthday.

The Second Symphony is a 'jazz age' production but with manifest infusions of Delian dreaminess (note the cor anglais at 3.08 in the first movement). The sleepy idylls return for the central recitative and the final fugue. In the middle movement we are also reminded of RVW's Pastoral Symphony. Elegiac trumpet notes float across the prairies. Sowerby is no stranger to vigour and there is a strongly defined rhythmic punch in the first movement and some heroic brass 'ramparts' reminiscent of Howard Hanson. While I suspect that a more electrifying performance might be possible this one rewards in reflection.

The 1941 Concert Overture is a cousin of Bantock's Pagan Symphony, Bax's Spring Fire and the Delius Dance Rhapsodies. Walton's Scapino is also a reference but there is more romantic meat on Sowerby's bones than on Walton's star-burst of an overture. Incidentally Walton had been friend of Sowerby since 1927. Frederick Stock, conductor of the Chicago Symphony, was a supporter of both composers and made a famous recording of Scapino.

The Passacaglia, Interlude and Fugue has an unpromising title. However the Bach-like resonances of each component are not far off the mark when the light piano touches and bubbling spirit sound so like a Stokowski Bach arrangement. A grand chorale rears high at 5.00 - Rubbra-like and defiant. Later early Delius meets the Franz Schmidt's Hussar Song Variations amid delicate wavelets of sound. Not totally convincing but an engaging listen.

The day in All on a Summer's Day must have been a windy one - exhilaration without anxiety - a jazzy fugue at 1.38 recalls Bliss and Lambert and at 3.40 the side-drum roll in the Moeran Sinfonietta.

All in all this is a very representative and sound collection and a credit to Çédille. Recording quality fine and little to choose between the two recording venues and bands though I did think that there was an acoustic gain to the radio studio. Their acumen in selecting Francis Crociata as the note writer was rewarded in the form of ten pages of easily readable and detailed background.

Rob Barnett



No. 1 (1921) f.p. Stock/Chicago 7 Apr 1922

Psalm Symphony (1924) unperformed

No. 2 (1928) f.p. Stock/Chicago 29 Mar 1929

No. 3 (1940) f.p. Stock/Chicago 6 Mar 1941

No. 4 (1944) f.p. Koussevitsky/Boston 7 Jan 1949

No. 5 (1964) requested by Ormandy but unperformed

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board.  Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.This is the only part of MusicWeb for which you will have to register.

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: