The music of George
Whitefield Chadwick needs more exposure.
Either of these works would surely be
well-received in the concert hall. Massachusetts-born,
Leipzig-trained, Chadwick was director
of the New England Conservatory from
1897. As Naxos’s notes put it, ‘Chadwick
was undoubtedly America’s greatest symphonist
between the Civil War and the 1920s’.
The Second Symphony
had a three-year gestation period; the
Scherzo was performed first as an independent
entity. Taken as a four-movement whole
- scherzo placed second - this is a
highly agreeable, well-constructed work.
A lonely solo horn gives out a ‘motto’
theme. The orchestral playing thereafter
is very disciplined, yet projects the
overall open-air feel of the music but
beware a certain shrillness to the violins
in their upper register. And if you
think the first movement is ‘pleasant’,
wait until you hear the second! Mendelssohn
knocks on the door of this Scherzo,
yet the expression is all States-side
- try the tune around 4’35.
The suave and, yes, slinky ‘Largo e
maestoso’ contains more than hints of
Dvořák with the influence of Tchaikovsky
making itself known later on. The finale
has a nice and easy flow and a real
sense of space. This is confident writing;
craft is very much in evidence
The Symphonic Sketches
is a set of four ‘impressions’: Jubilee;
Noël; Hobgoblin; A Vogrom Ballad. Interesting
that the opening of Jubilee clearly
invokes the spirit of Dvořák’s
Slavonic Dances, although there is a
distinct American twang to certain
Negro-tinged parts. Accents in this
performance are nicely pointed and there
is a sense of the joyous, not least
in the headlong coda.
The cor anglais melody
over a bed of strings of ‘Noël’
- inspired by the Christmas manger scene;
Chadwick’s second son was also called
Noel - is pure magic. Kuchar and his
forces give a very affectionate account.
A special word of praise should go to
the solo violinist’s efforts.
Mendelssohn is again
in evidence for the ‘Hobgoblin’ Scherzo,
an active movement fascinating in its
very unpredictability ... and there
is a great thigh-slapping tune at around
1’45! This is well played, if not with
the complete sense of abandon it deserves.
Perhaps, though, the finale is the most
interesting movement as it is here that
Chadwick takes real, but always playful,
risks with his material. This, surely,
must be a gas to play.
then, and works that will surely give
great pleasure. More, please.