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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    


 

Roy HARRIS (1898-1980)
Symphony No. 7 (1955)
William SCHUMAN (1910-1992)

Symphony No. 6 (1948)
New Zealand SO/Hugh Keelan
rec December 1994, Symphony House, Wellington, New Zealand
KOCH INTERNATIONAL CLASSICS 3-7290-2 HI [49.03]

 

 

The notes, descriptive but not at all technical, are by David Prieser. They are in English only. The font, a slender courier, is standard across booklet and cover.

Nomadic Harris and institutional Turk, Schuman, found a compulsive stimulus in the symphonic form. Schuman wrote ten and Harris thirteen. In both cases you can dock the first two - each of which was withdrawn though there seems to have been a revival of Harris 2 in recent times. Both Harris's and Schuman's Third represent their popular chef d'oeuvre. Both are superb works and in both cases Bernstein's first NYPO recordings are market leaders on SONY. The Harris Third was given its premiere recording by Koussevitky and the Bostonians. This kept the work alive notably on the RCA Victrola LP label.

Beyond these two works Harris's Seventh is his next strongest piece (I would rate it above the Third). The mono recording of Ormandy conducting the Seventh with the Philadelphia Orchestra remains the reference point. It is now conveniently available on the Albany USA label. This is a performance of luminous sonority with a brusque tread and epic jawset. Beside it Keelan and the New Zealander sound almost careful and deliberate. Their strengths are in the transparency and subtlety of the recording and the brass work is imperious. In the Schuman everyone seems much more confident and fluent. This is a tougher work. It is much more vitally under the skin of orchestra and conductor than the Harris.

Full marks to Koch for recording these two works however the disc plays for less than 50 minutes. I would have welcomed at least one filler, perhaps Roy Harris's Second, Fifth, Eleventh or Thirteenth. Good banding decisions by Koch leave us with these two single span symphonies subdivided (purely for listener convenience) into four and six tracks for Harris and Schuman respectively.

Rob Barnett

 


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