Reference Recordings have show real fidelity
to the creativity of Jose Serebrier.
Not only that they have encouraged him in some tangy and imaginative
repertoire but now some of there earliest projects are being reissued
as twofers. They have also gone the extra mile and issued the two Serebrier
Janáček CDs in the same way on RR-2103CD.
There was a time when the names of Coerne, Parker,
Chadwick, Gilbert and Beech meant hardly anything except to the dedicated
musicologist. These figures were from the North American musical renaissance
of the period 1880-1920. They had their meed of success during their
lifetimes but after that oblivion swept their works into the cobwebbed
corners. A similar thing happened to Mackenzie, Tovey, Stanford and
Neglect was not complete. There are always exceptions
and in the world of recordings there have been a few. During the 1960s
the Society for the Promotion of the American Musical Heritage (SPAMH)
issued many LPs featuring Chadwick and his contemporaries. The names
of Karl Krueger and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (along with the
MIA LP prefix) will always be associated with that series. Bridge are
gradually reissuing that series on CD. Howard Hanson on Mercury recorded
a number of these works during the 1950s. In the 1970s the conductor
Kenneth Klein conducted the LSO in an intriguing US renaissance collection
for EMI. More recently Albany and Chandos (the latter with the Detroit
SO and Neeme Järvi) have been exploring this repertory. Paine’s
two symphonies have been recorded by New World with Mehta and the NYPO.
Chadwick was forced to leave high school early but
through dedication and long hours of study completed studies in literature,
history and German. Disinherited by his family he left America and studied
with Jadassohn and Reinecke in Leipzig. Later he worked with Rheinberger
at Munich. After three years on the Continent he returned to the States
on the staff of the New England Conservatory finally rising in 1897
to the position of Director.
By 1893 he had composed had three works named and numbered
as ‘Symphony’. A further three multi-movement symphonic scores were
to follow: Symphonic Sketches (1895-1905), Sinfonietta in
D (1908) and Suite Symphonique (1910). The first and last are
recorded on this pair of discs.
Symphonic Sketches is in four movements;
each picturesquely titled. Jubilee
is Dvořákian and has an eager energy reminiscent of the more demonstrative
portions of Dvořák’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies. At 3:50 coincidentally
a little fanfare figure sounds as if it might have been written in tribute
to the New World Symphony. Chadwick
is a master coiner of fine themes (try the one at 4:20) and Jubilee
ends in blazing glory with savagely sonorous brass. Noel is the
second movement and summons, through some ripely romantic string and
woodwind writing, the spirit of a child’s Christmas. Chadwick’s son
(named Noel) was born a year before he started work on this movement.
Hobgoblin with its dancing woodwind is the least substantial
of the four movements. The side-drum and xylophone are used very effectively
in a Vagrom Ballad reflecting Chadwick’s experience of seeing
a down-and-outs encampment. The moods flit and transform constantly.
At 6.00 there is a very serious string statement imbued with romantic
passion. The movement ends in crashing grandeur which seemed rather
dutifully grafted on to an otherwise intrinsically very attractive work.
The Melpomene overture is Tchaikovskian; well
if not Tchaikovsky then perhaps Glazunov. In the introduction it is
rather like Romeo and Juliet although it lacks the world-conquering
themes of the Tchaikovsky work. Instead it has a Brahmsian darkness
and some gloriously liquid Slavonic horns at 9.03.
Tam O’Shanter is a major discovery. Banish
Arnold’s fine comic overture from your mind. This is a serious fantasy
symphonic poem. Gales are invoked, horns cut excitingly through the
texture and there is some really fine brashly vivacious writing for
the horns. Other notable signposts include the sound of woodblocks which
registers exotically in a wild dance. This is not a comedy overture
rather it reflects Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain
and the highly coloured poetry of Rimsky-Korsakov. Although there is
a slight skirl and some Scottish flavour there is, thankfully, no music-hall
Tartan in this music. The work ends in Dvořákian repose.
The second disc plays for almost ten minutes longer
than CD1. It opens with the Symphonic Suite. This time there are no
gaudy titles for the movements apart from the usual temperament indications.
Again the music is rhythmically inventive and varied with some blastingly
devastating brass writing. The movement (allegro) ends in heroic tumult.
A relaxed Romanza follows with a prominent part for saxophone. The third
movement Intermezzo and Humoreske is rhythmically very engaging
in a Tchaikovskian way perhaps like Hakon Børresen’s first symphony
(available on CPO and Marco Polo). The finale deploys the xylophone
and has a stamping grand symphonic conclusion. This is a work (and a
performance) of distinction, excitement and allure.
The sensuous and the erotic are not what may be expected
of the American East Coast school. However in his half-hour symphonic
poem Aphrodite Chadwick has learnt from Franck’s Psyche,
a work with which the Chadwick piece has many affinities. The Easterner,
from a sternly religious family milieu, has absorbed a Californian approach
to life. This is the most voluptuously French piece on the two discs.
You can hear the water lapping the shore and all too easily be drawn
into a scene from a Mediterranean fantasy by Alma-Tadema. The piece
has a good deep-sea theme, foam flecked and wave crashed, breathing
blue-green romance. It has many moments of quietly sensuous poetry and
Track 9 is of outstanding beauty.
The Elegy for Horatio Parker is quietly passionate
without too much all-purpose ‘nobilmente’. It has a sense of anger at
loss which tells us that Parker and Chadwick were close friends. This
is no formal tribute.
Stephen Ledbetter’s excellent notes are a strength
of this set.
This is warmly recommended for fine rare repertoire
and typically sprung, lively sound with power and subtlety aplenty.
These discs were previously issued separately as Reference
Recordings RR-64CD and RR-74CD.
I trust that Reference have not finally turned their
backs on rare repertoire and I hope they will do more rare and unrecorded
Americana. The field is wide open. Meantime enjoy these discs which
are perhaps the stronger because of the international input: Uruguayan
conductor and Czech orchestra.