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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Pilgrim’s Progress
Pioneers of American Classical Music
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990) ‘Candide Overture’, Florida Philharmonic/James Judd (from 8.559099);
Ferde GROFÉ (1892-1972) ‘Hollywood Suite: Production Number,’ Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/William Stromberg (from 8.559017)
Leroy ANDERSON (1908-1975) ‘The Syncopated clock’, Richard Hayman and his orchestra (from 8.559125)
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990) ‘Danza de Jalisco’, Nashville Chamber Orchestra/Paul Gambill (from 8.559125);
Amy BEACH (1867-1944) Piano Concerto: Scherzo, Alan Feinberg, Nashville S.O./ Kenneth Schermerhorn.(from 8.559139);
Leo ORNSTEIN (1892-2002) ‘A morning in the woods’, Janice Weber, piano (from 8.559067);
Charles CADMAN (1881-1946) ‘The Legend of the Canyon’, Peter Zazofsky, violin and Paul Posnak, piano (from 8.559067);
Samuel BARBER (1910-81) Violin Concerto 3rd movement, James Buswell, violin and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Marin Alsop (from 8.559044)
John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932) ‘Semper Fidelis’, Royal Artillery Band/Keith Brion (from 8.559092);
Michael TORKE (b.1961) ‘Rapture: Mallets’ , Colin Currie, Royal Scottish National Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop (as above);
Ned ROREM (b.1923) Bright Music: Fandango, The Fibonacci Sequence (from 8.559128);
Jerome MOROSS (1913-1983) ‘Willie the Weeper’: ‘Sexy Willie’, Hotsprings Festival Chamber Orchestra and choir/Richard Rosenburg (from 8.559086);
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937) ‘Cuban Overture’, New Zealand S.O. /James Judd (from 8.559107)
NAXOS 8.559200 [64.58]


Yes another compilation from Naxos this time from their ever-burgeoning catalogue of American music of the 19th and 20th Centuries. On this occasion it is an idea that works well. Now I don’t go much on these compilations but this one has afforded quite some pleasure in our household. First it puts side but side an interesting combination of pieces. Secondly some pieces are not at all well known especially in Europe. Perhaps the long-lived Leo Ornstein’s ‘A morning in the woods’ for solo piano could go into that category. Thirdly because it includes some little known composers for example Jerome Moross (who, incidentally wrote the music for the famous film ‘The Big Country’) and his one act Ballet-Ballad. Fourthly because the performances are good and the recordings of top quality.

Let me put some meat on the bones.

The earliest piece here is Sousa’s rousing ‘Semper Fidelis’ written in 1888 ‘in tears’ according to the anonymous booklet notes. Mrs.H.H.A.Beach (Amy) is represented by an enchanting Piano Concerto, unperformed in Britain. The Scherzo is a virtuoso movement written for herself to play. It dates from 1898/9.

The rest of the disc is devoted to the 20th Century. I particularly like how some lesser-known works represent the more famous names. Copland with the ‘Danza de Jalisco’ one of the ‘Three Latin-American sketches’ finally premiered in 1972 is one of the composer’s last orchestral works. There are many well-known pieces by Leroy Anderson so it was a nice idea to represent him by ‘The syncopated clock’. It is typical of his output but is less often heard although it was his first golden disc and a US charted hit.

Charles Cadman’s piece was once a popular drawing room tune for sentimental Sunday afternoons. Its revival now is a reminder that cross-over is not solely the province of modern Americans but was an essential for any composer wanting to attract a public and to make a little money.

Moving into our own times many of you who buy compilations may not have even heard of Michael Torke who could be described as a minimalist. I met him once and found him to be quiet and focused. ‘Rapture’ is a sensuous yet exciting mix aiming at a "transcendental state of sexual rapture". You might be able to find out whether that is so or not in more ways than one.

Each piece is given about a dozen lines of useful notes and it is clear which CD each track is culled from. This is, of course, in the hope of course that you might follow them up. The danger for the company with such a compilation is that you will find it sufficient unto itself and not find the need to purchase further on the grounds that your collection is now sufficiently represented in this particular type of repertory. I must say that as a result of hearing the music I now find the Jerome Moross extract mouth-wateringly fascinating and Ned Rorem a composer who is worth spending some time with. I already know Amy Beach’s music a little but shall look out for the Piano Concerto. So you could say, with me, that on this occasion the compilation ploy has worked. But what about you?

Gary Higginson

see also review by John Quinn

 

 



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