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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

Nicolas FLAGELLO (1928-1994)
Symphony No. 1 (1964-68) [36.42]
Sea Cliffs (1957) [3.25]
Intermezzo from The Piper of Hamelin (1969) [6.00]
Theme, Variations and Fugue (27.35)
Slovak Radio SO/David Amos
rec. 5-10 Nov 2001, Concert Hall of the Slovak Radio, Bratislava, Slovakia. DDD
American Classics Series
NAXOS 8.559148 [63.49]

 

It is a matter of wonder - amazement really - that work of such super-heated romantic temperament could have been written in the heart of the heartless 1960s. Flagello will be known to you if you are familiar with earlier reviews on this site. Suffice to say that he is of that 1930s American Italian generation that also gave us Vittorio Rieti, Paul Creston and Vittorio Giannini - romantics every one. Giannini in particular is in urgent need of a major orchestral recording project starting with Psalm 130 (cello or double bass and orchestra) and symphony No. 4 as well as The Medead, a four-movement monodrama for soprano and orchestra.

The Symphony is the first of two. The second, for windband, is on Citadel (also reviewed here). This version with David Amos as the practised hand and inspirer lacks the volcanic though rough and ready blaze of the premiere with the Manhattan School of Music Orchestra conducted by the composer from which I have known the work since about 1985. It is however a far better than creditable performance revealing a work that in its approach can be said to lie somewhere between the stormy, resentful Tropics of the First Symphonies of Alwyn and Rawsthorne. Even the merry-go-round allegretto brusco has a psychologically hunted quality. This, in general, is a work that touches none of the music of Hanson or Piston or Schuman. Flagello is his own man. His romantic soul is most clearly adumbrated by the finale with its generous horn overlay and gloriously contrasted cliff-edge dynamics.

Sea Cliffs: Well these cliffs are not storm-pummelled. They are a vantage point from which to view the murmurous dazzling ocean miles. This is high class light music - a true genre piece like the similarly neglected Sea Sheen by British composer, Eric Fogg. The theme can loosely be grouped with the poetic melody in the middle movement of Hanson's Second Symphony mixed with elements from Hugo Friedhofer's The Best Years of Our Lives (the titles) and something of Barber's Adagio. This is a most lovely piece but then similar things can be said of the Intermezzo from his opera The Pied Piper of Hamelin - peaceful yet not bland, reflective yet not cloying, moving yet not treacly.

Walter Simmons mentions the astringency of the Symphony. I know what he means but it is the merest dusting. Similarly light is the dissonance in the Theme, Variations and Fugue that crowned his year of study with Pizzetti. The Variations would probably have travelled further if Flagello had called the work Concerto for Orchestra which is another way of viewing a piece with many solos and deep reserves of colour and incident. This work has some intimations of mature Flagello but much of it tap-roots into Hindemith and Piston.

Do get this disc for the Symphony and the two irresistible genre pieces. The triptchal work may warm your heart more than it did mine.

The orchestra is in good heart as is the acoustic which might be improved with a reduction in reverberation.

Excellent supportive notes by Walter Simmons who has been a lifelong supporter of the composer's heritage. He can take special pleasure that this disc will, at bargain price, reach a wide range of listeners. They are likely to be surprised by delight and will want to search out the piano concertos (Artek) and other works.

Rob Barnett

 



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