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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    


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Norman Dello JOIO (b.1913)
Variations, Chaconne and Finale (1947) [26.32]
Paul CRESTON (1906-1985)

Dance Overture Op. 62 (1954) [13.35]
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)

Evocations (1937) [17.17]
Lithuanian National Philharmonic Orchestra/David Amos
rec. April 1992, Vilnius, Lithuania. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2356 [57.51]

These three classics of 20th century American music together play for less than an hour.

The Dello Joio is his most accessible concert work. Originally dubbed Three Symphonic Dances it was premiered in Chicago by Fritz Reiner. It is the most substantial piece here. Right from the start it radiates a glow which rises to what I can best term a cool yet amiable spirituality. Apart from one vulgar variation which breaks the mood this refrigerated counterpart to Barber's Adagio works extremely well. The character is well sustained into the warmer emotional heroics of the Chaconne where the mood at times touches on Howard Hanson's and Roy Harris's symphonic style. The Harris fingerprints are very strong towards the end of the movement especially the martellato blasts which lift and punctuate the closing pages leading into the very brief finale - Allegro vivo. That movement should be thought of in company with the flashing energy of the Piston Second Symphony finale and Wirén's Serenade for Strings. This is the first time I have come across something of Dello Joio's that works as well as say Britten's Simple Symphony or Janáček's Sinfonietta. Dello Joio came from a musical family and when hit by the Depression Norman's dance band supplemented the family income. In this he was like Benjamin Frankel in London though the two composers adopted completely different idioms: Dello Joio kept to his tonal ‘True North’ while Frankel found sustenance in Bergian dissonance albeit masterfully orchestrated.

Dance is a common thread through Creston's music. Piece after piece are dance-linked and several of the movements from his six symphonies are dance episodes. The overture is uproarious without being vulgar. It has a high rhythmic charge and is good entertainment music. It is the sort of thing that would go well with the Kabalevsky Colas Breugnon overture, William Mathias's ebullient Dance Overture, Alan Rawsthorne's Street Corner, Bernstein's Candide, Copland's Outdoor Overture and Arthur Butterworth's still unrecorded Mancunians overture. It is more than mere high spirits as the poetic idyll of 6.09-9.11 demonstrates. The fairground jerkiness of the end suggests the composer took his eyes off the ball for a little while and allowed things to relax into the folksy vigour of Roy Harris's Folksong Symphony (No. 4).

The Bloch is a serious reflection on Oriental culture. It began life as Esquisses Orientales in 1930 but after much tinkering and revision over a period of eight years emerged in its current form. The first movement (Contemplation) is impressionistic, the second (Houang Ti), as befits a God of War, rattles and blares with tearing gestures linked to the saw-toothed fanfares from his 'Jewish' pieces. The third, Springtime, is a pastoral idyll which resonates with voices from Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe. Do not look for conscious or obvious chinoiserie in this music. There is less of that than in Bantock's delicate Four Chinese Pictures (pretty well contemporaneous with the Bloch) or the Lambert or Bliss song cycles of the 1920s.

Good and thoroughly detailed notes by Brendan Wehrung.

This is a well judged collection. While we may lament that a couple more works were not added the concert is a very satisfying one which is likely to win new friends for all three composers.

Rob Barnett



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