> SCHIFFMAN Symphony and Concerti [HC]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Harold SCHIFFMAN (born 1928)
Symphony (1961)a
Concerto for Oboe d’amore and String Orchestra (1988)b
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1982)b

Julie Ann Giacobassi (oboe d’amore); Jane Perry-Camp (piano); Györ Philharmonic Orchestraa; Hungarian Symphony Orchestrab; Mátyás Antal
Recorded: Györ Evangelical Church, May 1998 (Symphony); MATAV Music House, Budapest, July 1998 (Oboe d’amore Concerto) and June 1999 (Piano Concerto)



Harold Schiffman, born in 1928, studied with Roger Sessions, privately as well as at the University of California and later at Princeton. He has composed a sizeable body of works in almost every genre, and some of these are available in commercial recordings including several NORTH/SOUTH RECORDINGS.

Schiffman’s Symphony (1961) is the earliest work recorded here. It is cast in four movements with the Scherzo placed third. The opening Allegro appassionato, basically in sonata form, opens boldly and later alternates slower moments and restatements of the opening theme serving as a motto throughout the movement. The following Adagietto grazioso, the slow movement, is more intimate in character and more lightly scored. The Scherzo that follows is lighter in mood, "with rather a burlesque quality". The last movement opens with a broad Largamente introduction leading into the main body of the movement, a "march-like theme and variations".

The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1982) was written for the present soloist who gave the first performance and went on to record some of Schiffman’s piano music for N/S RECORDINGS. It is cast in one single movement with clearly characterised sections, and most of the music is developed from the basic material stated in the opening section. A more animated section leads into a brisk Scherzo fading into a short Adagio section in turn leading into the final section Allegro vivo. A brief cadenza recalling some earlier material is capped by a lively coda.

The Concerto for Oboe d’amore (1988) is the last part of a triptych of works written for members of the oboe family. It was preceded by the Oboe Concertino (1977) and the Chamber Concerto for Cor anglais, Harp, Strings and Winds (1986). The Oboe d’amore Concerto, as a whole, is somewhat lighter in mood and predominantly lyrical with beautifully singing tunes exploiting the full range of the instrument’s possibilities.

Schiffman’s music partakes of what may be best referred to as '20th Century mainstream'. It is traditionally conceived, often lyrical, sometimes rugged and mildly dissonant, but it communicates directly, without excessive fuss. Schiffman has a remarkable orchestral and instrumental flair, the latter particularly in evidence in the beautiful Oboe d’amore Concerto.

These fine works are well served by the performers who play with dash and conviction though this music must have been quite new for the Hungarian players. It is given a bright recorded sound (maybe too bright for some tastes).

If you like American symphonism as embodied by, say, Walter Piston, Paul Creston or Peter Mennin, you will have no difficulty whatsoever with Schiffman’s music. It does not pale in their company. Well worth investigating.

Hubert Culot

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