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Loosely speaking Quincy Porter may be counted as of the same school as Roussel. Indeed Porter studied with Roussel within two years of end of his three year stay in Paris. There is no jazziness in this music nor is it neo-classical, nor central European, nor does it display overt Americana.

These are the only two Porter symphonies. This is to be compared with his ten string quartet running 1923-1965.

The First Symphony was premiered by the New York Phil in 1938. It launches with thunderous and energetic exuberance recalling Roussel and Markevitch. There is a baritonal chestiness to the tone of the strings. The storm relents with an emotion-drained cool part Bridge and part Vaughan Williams but without RVW's sense of the numinous. There is some convincing punchy work for the French horns at 1.38 in the finale. There it resembles Randall Thompson's writing in the Second Symphony but without his mastery of emotional yield and eloquence.

The Second Symphony was commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra and conducted by Robert Whitney in Kentucky on 14 January 1964. It starts with a longish lento - maybe a degree cooler than the andante of the 1934 First Symphony. There is a sly scherzando with a smirk and a wink recalling Weill in his Second Symphony. The adagio is cut from the same cool cloth as the lento. It must be said that every time the horns have centre-stage they shine and joyously. This they do in the allegro which is Copland-bright. Works in parallel style are the Moeran Sinfonietta, Copland's El Salon Mexico and William Mathias's irresistibly Latino Dance Overture although Porter was not the master orchestrator that Mathias was.

In the Poem and Dance Porter is more like Roussel again. The work was a commission of the Cleveland Orchestra. The music is oddly jerky in the Poem and contrary to model jazzy in the Dance. The high coursing trumpet and the horn section takes the part of action while Ravelian slips and slides portray the reflective. The title format is pure Creston but the sound is closer to Roussel.

This disc fills a valuable purpose and closes up another gap in the catalogue. Adherents of the music of Roussel, Hindemith and Markevitch should seek this one out urgently. Stylishly done and recorded with resounding impact and transparency.

Rob Barnett

 


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