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Albert HURWIT (b. 1931)
Symphony No. 1 Remembrance (2002) [58:59]
Bulgarian National Radio SO/Michael Lankester
rec. July 2004, Bulgarian Radio Studio 1, Sofia, Bulgaria. DDD
MSR CLASSICS MS 1134 [58:59]

Hurwit was born in Hartford, Connecticut and practised as a radiologist from 1961 until his retirement in 1986. Music has been a lifelong interest and since his retirement, despite limited technical musical skills, he has composed extensively. In 1997 Michael Lankester conducted the world premiere of Hurwit's five minute adagio. The piece was well received and the composer felt encouraged to expand the adagio into the present full blown four movement symphony. Lankester heard the draft of the first movement now known as Origins in 2000 and, his interest well and truly engaged, worked with Hurwit to orchestrate and organise the work here recorded.

The unifying subject matter for this ambitious piece is one of mingled nostalgia, violence, the bitter melancholia of loss and hope sprung from arrival in a new world. The brief liner notes relate Hurwit's antecedents to each of these themes.

The first movement has the sturdy calming gait of Everyman using a coaxingly warm theme that recalls two first symphonies - those of Elgar and Mahler. The second movement (separation) echoes with the funeral march from the Eroica, softened by Brahmsian pastoralism (Symphony 3) and also by Brahmsian grandeur (Symphony 1). In the midst of the movement a klezmer band adds a distinctive haze to the proceedings. At 8:24 there is a village dance vignette - where the sepia distancing is suddenly blown away leaving the experience of those long lost days suddenly gripping the listener's attention. Remembrance is both the title of the symphony and the title of its third movement perhaps indicating the work's heart. The mood is very centred, proceeding in a style recalling the contented big band 20th century orchestrations of meditative Bach mixed with Mahler's Adagietto (Symphony 5). The theme becomes heavily dosed with sentiment - perhaps a mite syrupy rising to a ‘triumph in the skies’ even if there is a hint of film music here (perhaps Trevor Jones' Last of the Mohicans). The finale (Arrival) is concerned with freedom and confidence in the family's new world. This is ebullient music, meshing the elegiac and pastoral nostalgic theme of the first movement with marching band moments, popular dance, klezmer chiaroscuro (8:14) and ending in a brazen Waltonian glow of joyous confidence.

The orchestra appear to have been extremely well prepared although I noticed some momentary faltering at the start of the first and final movements of this eclectic yet patently sincere symphony.

Rob Barnett


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