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Paul CRESTON (1906-1985)
Janus Op. 77 (1959) [12:21]
Violin Concerto No. 2 Op. 78 (1960) [23:54]
Symphony No. 4 Op. 52 (1951) [25:57]
Gregory Fulkerson (violin)
Albany Symphony Orchestra/David Alan Miller
rec. 26 Apr 2003 (sym); 15 Mar 2003 (concerto); 20 Jan 2001 (Janus). Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY. DDD
ALBANY TROY737 [62:14]


This disc adroitly complements the Naxos CD of Creston's first three symphonies (see review) and then strikes out in new directions with world premiere recordings of a concerto and what amounts to one of his tone poems.

Creston's Mediterranean blood shows through in Janus which has the Aegean warmth of Rorem and of Debussy's Faune. Remarkable is the stinging whip-snapping vituperation of the central section which is part-Walton and part-Piston (finale of Second Symphony). For a work written the year after Vaughan Williams' death its long melodies have a breath-taking breadth typical of the British composer's lyrical best in the Sixth Symphony. While universities and orchestras across the States were embracing the new sterility Creston ploughed his own songful furrow with splendour, confidence and spitfire energy.

Creston begins his Second Violin Concerto in much the same sun-warmed way as Janus written the year previously. The curvature and fall of his melodies are redolent of those that aspire, sing and smile their way through the Walton Violin Concerto. It reminded me also a little of another British violin concerto, the 1938 work by Arnold Bax. In the otherwise ecstatically sun-warmed central Andante there is a delicate little dance - again ŗ la Piston Second Symphony - and of course dance plays a major part in Crestonís second and third symphonies. As the dance fades so we return to the Waltonian heat in an accompanied cadenza which must have delighted Michael Rabin who championed the concerto in its earliest days. Surely it also pleased Gregory Fulkerson who sounds completely convinced and absorbed by the piece. The concerto was a Ford Foundation commission which was premiered by Rabin on 17 November 1960 with the LAPO conducted by Solti. A private Rabin recording survives but with the Little Orchestra of New York conducted by Thomas Scherman. Letís not forget the First Concerto either which was given an airing by Boris Rabinoff with the Detroit orchestra conducted by Paray.

The Fourth Symphony was premiered by the National SO in Washington on 30 January 1952 although enthusiasts will know the work from a later broadcast by Walter Hendl and the Dallas Symphony. The conductor at the premiere was Howard Mitchell who in 1953 was to record the Second and Third Symphonies on Westminster LP W9708. Creston referred accurately to the Fourth's gaiety and brilliance. From that point of view this vivacious spring-heel piece can be compared with Randall Thompson's Second, George Lloyd's Sixth and Prokofiev Seven. It is not however all spring mornings: the nightingale sings amid classical groves in the Andante Pastorale. After a light-hearted Allegretto giocoso comes a boisterous vivace saltellante.

The Albany Symphony are captured with satisfying immediacy of sound and the notes complement this attractive and well planned disc. I hope that it is the harbinger for yet more Creston revivals.

Rob Barnett


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