crowded disc is part of DG's
20/21 Music of Our Time
which has invaluably given
a new lease of life to some extremely significant and often
challenging works recorded by DG since the 1960s.
music has never been a homogeneous quantity; at least not
for most of the second half of the 20th century. While Searle
was writing serial symphonies Hanson and George Lloyd were
producing symphonies of an epic-melodic set. While Reich
and Del Tredici wrote in various tonal idioms Elliot Carter
produced works of Webernian asperity and Crumb wrote works
that combined dissonance with romantic allusion. It has in
fact been a very heterogeneous field although fashion, music
promoters, record entrepreneurs and orchestral managements
has tended ignore either one extreme or the other. Some composers
have also evolved their styles in a consciously or unconsciously
Darwinian way, tracking changes in the artistic consensus.
Frank Bridge turned increasingly from tonality towards a
new and more acid style between 1910 and 1925. He was not
alone; listen to Elliot Carter's Symphony No 1 and the ballet Pocahontas
compare these with the Piano Concerto and the Symphony
of Three Orchestras. Peter Maxwell Davies' extreme experimental
banshee 'shrieks' of the 1960s and 1970s changed towards
a more conformist, accessible though still distinctive,
in the 1980s from the First Symphony onwards.
concerto is in three movements and in mood is shaped
by tradition. The orchestra used is to a normal specification.
The work was written for Paul Zukofsky and the conductor
Dennis Russell Davies, both prominent figures in the
of modern music. The commission came from Davies' American
Composers Orchestra. The character of the piece veers
from railway rapping rhythms - all three unnamed movements
to Bachian velocity and purity. In the second movement,
we experience the sort of heart-stilling inwardness and
spirituality you find in the last twenty minutes of Allan
Pettersson's Seventh Symphony. The finale boils with
chaffing recollections of Herrmann's North by Northwest
Shostakovich-like vitriol darting and pecking virtuosity
- a sort of waspish rumba. Rather like Reich's Variations
Nyman's Where the Bee Dances
this work has the
capacity to hold the attention of a very wide audience.
prayer of a slow movement has deservedly achieved multiple
playings on the UK's Classic FM radio station. It is
a lovely piece (see reviews
of the Naxos recording of
the Glass concerto).
Glass reaches out to listeners bristling with rhythmic excitement,
melodically memorable material and instantly engaging repetition,
is a slightly more resistant. Even so it
is not forbidding. The lyrically singing core has a theme
momentarily doffing its cap to Rozsa. The finale of Vaughan
Williams' s Sixth Symphony is to be found in the Romance
which is marked 'hardly moving' - a pre-echo
of the Glass slow movement. Samuel Barber may also be saluted
by the woodwind writing at 2.23 tr. 8; indeed there are direct
or caustically filtered reflections of the Barber style throughout.
The concerto is in six sections rather like Rorem's Piano
Concerto. This work, which has some wonderfully sensitive
moments, probably has more long term staying-power than the
instantly captivating Glass.
concerto belongs to Nantucket, off the Massachusetts coastline.
was written thirty years before on another
Massachusetts island, Martha's Vineyard. The movements are Phaedrus
While the two concertos are for conventional orchestra, the
Bernstein is for a string orchestra with harp and percussion.
Perhaps curiously it is actually longer by five minutes than
each of its two concerto disc-mates. In Phaedrus
be heard the first stirrings of the Maria
from West Side Story.
Does the Aristophanes allegretto
betray, in the orchestral line, a familiarity with Pulcinella
also with Bernstein’s ground-breaking study of Mahler's
along at high speed delivering a thunderous hailstorm of
impacts rather like the Schuman concerto. The Agathon
is surely in touch with the Mahler 5 adagietto
in the solo line looks out, in honeyed tenderness, towards
the Barber Violin Concerto’s middle movement. The Socrates
is the longest of the movements at ten minutes. At 6.02 it
enters a sleazily louche atmosphere suggestive of a decadent La
That episode has about it a touch of Stephan Grapelli
in those records he made for EMI in the 1970s with Previn
and Menuhin when they sold like hotcakes. At 8.35 the thundering
march theme is identical to that in the second movement of
works are heard in recordings taken from live concerts as
you can hear from the cough at 1.10 in the Twilight
(tr. 4) of the Rorem.
series uses the so-called ‘digipack’ rather than the jewel
case. A booklet with helpful and factual rather than pretentious
notes is included. This slips into the left-hand pocket
of the cardboard wing-fold case.
these works are avant-garde, atonal or serial. All represent
the melodic stream. The Rorem is the more dissonant of the
three but is still rooted in a language allied to that of
Barber and Piston. If you regard the Shostakovich second
concerto as a tonal outlier there is nothing here as remote
or as chilly as that. As for the Glass it will instantly
and naggingly enter your whistling repertoire.