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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


American Music For Strings
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981) Serenade for String Orchestra, op.1
Irving FINE (1914-1962) Serious Song – A Lament for String Orchestra
Elliott CARTER (b.1908) Elegy
David DIAMOND (b.1915) Rounds for String Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra/Paul Shure
Recorded 1980 – venue not given
WARNER APEX 7559 79670-2 [36:58]
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Apart from the Irving Fine, all the works on this disc are early products of their composers. The Barber Serenade is his opus 1, and was written in his late teens, probably 1928 or 1929. Its first two movements, though expressive and well written, are probably too similar in character. The finale, however, with its angular little dance theme, is accomplished and memorable. This is an unassuming but attractive work.

The Fine Serious Song of 1955, written for the Louisville Orchestra, is an impressive piece, which builds up considerable emotional tension and intensity, while the Carter is an arrangement of a piece written when in his early 30s. It started out as a work for 'cello and piano, and Carter reworked it for string orchestra around 1952. It contains some really wonderful textures, taking the various sections into extreme registers, but always playable and idiomatic.

The Diamond Rounds is probably the most developed and musically satisfying work on the disc. Again, it is quite an early work, dating from 1944 when Diamond was in his late 20s, and it reflects various influences. The lively first movement has suggestions of the springy rhythms found in Walton (Portsmouth Point) or even more the Tippett of the Concerto for Double String Orchestra. The Adagio makes much play with hanging soft-centred dissonances in high and low strings, opening out into an expressive melodic line, again alternating high and low strings. The finale uses the percussive pizzicato beloved of Bartók, double-basses making the strings snap against the fingerboard. Through all this, though, Diamond’s own voice sounds strongly and convincingly.

The Los Angeles Strings under Paul Shure play with great assurance and excellent tone and ensemble. The recording isn’t particularly kind, sounding a little boxy and very ‘studio’. The slower pieces in particular are not helped by this.

Request to apex. Please could recording details – date and venue, total length etc.- be printed larger. The tiny type-face strains my poor eye-sight to the limits!

Gwyn Parry-Jones

 


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