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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Louis GRUENBERG (1884-1964)
Symphony No. 2 (1941) [29.20]
Serenade to a Beauteous Lady (1934) [4.37]
The Enchanted Isle (1927) [16.59]
Czech National Symphony Orchestra/Paul Freeman
rec. Sept 1999 - Mar 2001, ICN Recording Studios, Prague. DDD
Music from the Fleisher Collection vol. 1
ALBANY TROY 467 [51.17]

The Second Symphony blusters into action with a whirling chorus of opposing voices and with the chaotic awesome quality of a Havergal Brian Symphony - say the Twenty-Second. The density and unresolved collisions of counterpoint also remind the listener of Grainger's The Warriors and of the Ives of the Fourth Symphony. Once it has settled down there are moments that suggest linkage with RVW's Sixth Symphony and Havergal Brian's The Wine of Summer and Third Symphony - especially the latter with those orchestral pianos. The second movement is also individual, rather static yet lyric like the middle movement of the Tippett Triple Concerto of 1979. The Serenade is less of a troubadour piece and more of a Marche Joyeuse (updated Chabrier); pretty uncomplicated too with none of the chaos-infusion evident from the symphony. The Enchanted Isle is touched with various magicians' wands. It breathes the air of Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy, a little of Griffes' Pleasure Dome, Szymanowski's incense from Krol Roger and The Song of the Night. We know Gruenberg for his Violin Concerto, recorded by Heifetz and now available on Naxos Historical. That concerto, before diving into kitsch, had substantial and powerful Delian episodes and it is into a Delian dream that the island begins to drift before cheeky and resolute woodwind and catchy rhythmic material of a Gallic opera-comique caste take over. These then give place to an unresolved belligerence and striving.

Overall if Gruenberg has a problem it is that his melodies are not really all that memorable. Nevertheless there is something special in his way with the orchestra and we should hear the other symphonies. The Czech sessions seem to have been successful and I hope we will hear more from this quarter. Good annotation as usual from Albany.

Rob Barnett



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