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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    



Arnold ROSNER (b.1945)
Millennium Overture [6.34]
A Sephardic Rhapsody [16.15]
Concerto for Two Trumpets, Strings and Timpani [21.53]
The Tragedy of Queen Jane (1980) [30.15]
Altoona SO/Nicholas Palmer
Owensboro SO/Nicholas Palmer
rec 2001? Mishler Theater, Altoona, Pennsylvania (overture; rhapsody); RiverPark Center, Owensboro, Kentucky (concerto; Tragedy) DDD
ALBANY TROY 548 [74.55]



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I have previously sung the praises of the music of Arnold Rosner. I am pleased to have the excuse to do that again in reviewing a disc given over to Rosner's orchestral music. Encouragingly the disc is marked 'Orchestral Music of Arnold Rosner - Volume I'.

Both the Sephardic Rhapsody and the Overture spring from Rosner's long association with the conductor David Amos. The Millenium Overture is an orchestration of the final movement of Rosner's 1990 Cello Sonata No. 2. The brass are commandingly to the fore in a work that is quick-witted, emotional and restless. It has his trademark exotic flavour, a galumphing almost brutal rhythmic punctuation mixed with Gabrielian work for the whole brass complement.

A Sephardic Rhapsody has that Mozarabic curve and sway to the tunes heard instantly in extensive writing for solo strings and trumpet. The lines and their treatment impart dignity and reserve without being emotionally stilted. It is somewhat in the same line as Hovhaness but much more is going on in Rosner's music. The music also touches base with works such as Vaughan Williams' Flos Campi and Rozsa's Tripartita.

After those two works we move to the Owensboro orchestra for the three movement Concerto for Two Trumpets. Strings and Timpani. This is virtuosic, free from jazziness, infused with dignified hieratic eloquence and the drama of ritual. The antiphonal effects are superbly captured in this recording. The concerto was written for Ted McIrvine and Bruce McKinney (both composers and trumpeters). This recording is dedicated to Ted's memory - he died of bone cancer in 2000.

Finally we come to the substantial four movement suite The Tragedy of Queen Jane. This is a suite from the music Rosner wrote for the opera The Chronicle of Nine, on a play by Florence Stevenson. The suite opens with a grave soliloquy called Prelude. This is very close in feel to Vaughan Williams' Tallis Fantasia leavened with rising harp figures and fearsome brass passages in what we now recognise as Rosner's distinctive super-Baroque style. Here however the brass is edgy with panic or insurrection. The Masque has an antique feeling which transforms a theme rather related to Vaughan Williams' Greensleeves Fantasia with the sort of grandeur to be found in Reger's Baroque experiments. In the opera this is the wedding music. The Clarion movement is belligerent; indeed in the opera it refers to the skirmish in which Queen Jane's forces are driven off. The Dirge has one of those massive uprooting fanfares - touched with catastrophe and restive with tragedy. In the opera this forms the Act II prelude. Rosner says that we may think of it as a dirge for Jane.

Rosner's music packs a powerful emotional punch - and it is instantly recognisable, with its glowering and gaunt brass and calmly placid and elysian string writing. We need to hear more please.

Rob Barnett



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