AN AMERICAN TAPESTRY
William SCHUMAN New England Triptych
Charles GRIFFES White Peacock
Charles IVES Three Places in New
Alan HOVHANESS Symphony No. 2 Mysterious
Walter PISTON The Incredible Flutist
- suite (10 movements)
Dallas SO/Andrew Litton
rec May 1995.
DORIAN DOR-90224 DDD
Dorian's catalogue more often yields up gold then gilt. Their recording quality
is strong and up to the highest standards. The Texan Orchestra does not cede
place to its European rivals nor even its more prestigious rivals in Boston
and New York. I have already reviewed the same orchestra's Dorian discs of
Korngold's Sinfonietta and the rather short measure Mata-conducted
disc of An American Panorama. The Korngold (Dorian DOR-90216) is simply
superb and a very full disc too. Anima-Mathé's Korngold Violin Concerto
is a version for grown-ups tired of Heifetz's virtuoso chrome steel
helter-skelter. The Sinfonietta is given its optimum recording and interpretation
on disc. Mata's On the Waterfront and Harris Third Symphony also have
considerable strengths even though their Billy the Kid is the flattest
of flat Budweisers.
Piston, Schuman and Ives are all top ten names among American composers.
Of them Ives is the most avant garde with his New Englander blood relishing
the intentionally gauche and occasionally dissonant picture painting. The
first movement refers to the statue of Civil war Colonel Robert Shaw commander
of a black battalion. The Fourth of July celebrations of the second movement
are followed by a movement recalling, through the flow of the river and the
distant and not so distant hymn singing, the composer's stroll with his wife
along the banks of the Housatonic. This is done with unbuttoned gusto as
is The Incredible Flutist. I have never been all that sure
about the Piston ballet but here it is given a vivid outing and the Spanish
Waltz in particular is outstandingly good. The ballet is very catholic
and perhaps unfocused in its styles. I heard the Schuman piece shortly after
hearing the very recently issued Naxos disc (8.559083) and I confess that
the virtuosity and sheer élan of the Dorian recording trounces the
Bournemouth SO version. It is a combination of vivacity and shatteringly
good recording quality that places the Dorian high in the lists.
The brash almost Arnold like character of the Schuman with its raucous
triumphalism at the close and thuddingly captured bass drums at the end oft
he first movement provides stark contrast with the Debussian evanescence
of Griffes' The White Peacock. This is a consummately impressionistic
work which shadows Bax's Garden of Fand in its transparency, subtlety
and soloistic character. Last, and far from least, comes Alan Hovhaness's
Symphony No. 2 and all credit to Litton for choosing a Hovhaness symphony
from the sixty-plus available. This is the natural choice having been recorded
by RCA with Reiner and the Chicago Symphony. It was premiered 'down the road'
in October 1955 at Houston with Stokowski conducting. This version shimmers
and glows like an Armenian Tallis Fantasia. It is typical of Hovhaness that
to provide variety he deploys a sword-wind second subject (similar to that
in the even finer Majnun Symphony) for the Moderato Maestoso
central movement. This provides relief from the dominant hymn-like reverence.
Very full and welcome notes from Kevin Bazzana ( I hope we will see more
from him). The misspelling ('Hovhannes') of Hovhaness on the back of the
jewel case is not repeated in the notes.
This is a very strong selection and one to be commended for its unhackneyed
choices. A delight to come across such a collection devoid of Gershwin and