David Amos has majored
on championing the music of America’s
traditionalist composers of the twentieth
century. He has recorded more than 130
compositions from this rich stream on
some thirty compact discs. These have
included lesser-known works by Nicolas
Flagello, Arnold Rosner, Paul Creston,
Vincent Persichetti, Vittorio Giannini
and Ernest Bloch. He has been something
of a jobbing nomad and has worked with
many of the world’s leading orchestras,
including the London Symphony, the Israel
Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic,
the Polish Radio, and the Jerusalem
Symphony. He is the founder and music
director of the TICO Orchestra of San
Diego. He began his musical studies
in Mexico City, continuing at San Diego
State University, before pursuing doctoral
studies at the University of Indiana.
In addition to conducting, he has hosted
and produced a long-running radio series
on contemporary music, and writes a
regular music column for the San
Diego Jewish Times. He is in frequent
demand as a lecturer, guest conductor,
and adjudicator in music competitions.
[with acknowledgement to the Naxos website].
Amos made three related
CDs for Harmonia Mundi in the early
1990s. They were dubbed the ‘Modern
Masters’ series and had Amos conducting
three different orchestras. The works
included were from the alternative melodic
stream in 20th century music. Notable
were otherwise unrecorded works by Rózsa
(Tripartita), Rosner, Hovhaness and
Menotti. All three CDs bent their necks
for the deleters’ coup de grace pretty
rapidly. Kleos have been industriously
reissuing them. This is the last of
the series to reappear although it was
originally volume 2.
a Sherwood Hall, La Jolla commission,
is a neo-classical piece, busy and soloistic,
dervish-whirling, not too dry but evidently
written with affectionate obeisance
to Stravinsky and Pulcinella in
the outer movements. The accents are
affectingly ‘great open spaces’ American
(Harris and Barber). It is for string
orchestra with percussion and single
woodwind and brass. Turok’s sombre
Threnody for string orchestra
was premiered in Seattle in January
1980. The Dello Joio Lyric
Fantasies is a ripely reflective
discursively lyrical piece. There is
not a shred of neo-classicism to be
heard here. Instead the music is related
to early Tippett (Concerto for Double
String Orchestra), Great War vintage
Frank Bridge and mature Vaughan Williams
(Concerto Grosso and Flos
Campi). I do not detect much of
an American accent (certainly none of
the wide open spaces of Ward-Steinman’s
‘centre of gravity’). Like much of Dello
Joio this piece has depth and grows
on you quickly. Henry Cowell’s
tensely serious Hymn for strings
is concentrated, rounded, prayerfully
invocational, serious and more Tallis-like
than the Dello Joio, not as piercing
as the Barber Adagio but with
something of the weighty passion of
Hovhaness’s string writing about it.
Creston wrote his Partita in
1937. Its neo-classicism is not of the
desiccated type. Certainly it is chatteringly
active, debonaire and dashing in the
finale but closer overall to Moeran’s
Serenade in style. Tribute is
paid to Tudor dance forms but always
leaning into melody. The alternative
Seattle version of the Partita can
be found on Naxos: http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Mar04/Creston5.htm.
This is likely to open
new casements for the listener with
a taste for the melodic yet not bland
in 20th century music culture. The Dello
Joio is well worth getting to hear.
The Creston is attractive and both the
Cowell and Turok are sincere and eloquent.
Only the Ward-Steinman with its intermittent
predilection for dry neo-classicism
may sometimes disappoint. At bargain
price a very welcome return to the catalogue.
NORMAN DELLO JOIO official site
THE ORIGINAL MODERN MASTERS SERIES (all
now reissued on Kleos)
Volume 1. London Symphony Orchestra
/ David Amos.
Harmonia Mundi cassette HMU40 6010;
CD HMU90 6010 (73.00).
Rozsa Rózsa: Tripartita, Op.
33. M. Gould: Folk Suite (1938). Menotti:
Triplo Concerto a tre (1970). Lavry:
Emek - symphonic poem (1936).
Volume 2. Yossi Arnheim (fl); Nicholas
Ward (vn); Karen Elaine (va); City of
London Sinfonia / David Amos.
Harmonia Mundi cassette HMU40 6011;
CD HMU90 6011 (60.00).
Cowell: Hymn. Creston: Partita, Op.
12. Dello Joio: Lyric Fantasies. Turok:
Threnody, Op. 54. Ward-Steinman: Chamber
Orchestra Concerto No. 2.
Volume 3. Sheldon Merel (ten); Kenneth
Smith (fl); Hugh Bean (vn); David Jones
(vc); Philharmonia Orchestra / David
Harmonia Mundi cassette HMU40 6012;
CD HMU90 6012 (77.00).
Dello Joio: Meditations on Ecclesiastes.
Hovhaness: Psalm and Fugue. Shepherd
of Israel. Rosner: Responses, Hosanna
and Fugue, Op. 67.
REVIEWS OF OTHER DISCS FROM THE MODERN
Modern Masters 1
Modern Masters 3
Voices in the Wilderness
Walter Simmons has been fighting the
corner of the disdained melodic stream
in American 20th century music since
the 1950s. At long last his book Voices
in the Wilderness has been published
and should be available soon. The composers
covered are Ernest Bloch, Howard
Hanson, Vittorio Giannini,
Paul Creston, Samuel Barber,
and Nicolas Flagello.
Have a look at: http://www.walter-simmons.com/wilderness/wilderness.htm