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Frank Ezra LEVY (b. 1930)
A Summer Overture (1997) [8:39]
Cello Concerto No. 2 (2002) [20:12]
Rondo Tarantella (2003) [15:53]
Symphony No. 3 (1977) [20:10]
Scott Ballantyne (cello)
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland/Takuo Yuasa
rec. 27-28 September 2004, Dublin Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland
NAXOS 8.559234 [64:53]

I have to confess to not having heard of Frank Levy until I was sent this CD. From the beginning Iíve found listening to this well filled disc an enjoyable experience. Striking cover picture too "Opening" by Ulrich Osterlob who is a new name to me. A Summer Overture begins proceedings and unlike my colleague David Blomenberg it did remind me a bit of Coplandís Rodeo but not overtly so. Itís based on the mediaeval song much loved by madrigal singers and choirs Sumer is icumen in, and this has lead me to getting "Sumer is Icumen in" Medieval English Songs Hilliard Ensemble - Paul Hillier Harmonia Mundi HMC 1154 which is presently on my " to listen to" pile! Expect a review some time before next summer Ė I hope! The Overture is a fun melodic piece and is very well played. Returning to this disc after a gap I was struck by the sound of orchestra and melodic invention. I think it would make a good overture at "The Last Night of the Proms". Tremendous percussion making cheerful noise bring the piece to a lively climax. A great start to the disc and a good sampler!

Cello Concerto No. 2 commences with a haunting melody on the cello and is almost Sibelian before the small orchestra come in. Scott Ballantyne plays with real emotion and the orchestra responds. The great thing is that Levy produces melody and excitement. Nothing overstays its welcome so that it makes for a good listen. Thereís an elegiac quality to the slow movement which balances the plaintive cello with woodwinds. I liked this piece and will be happy to return.

Rondo Tarantella is recently composed and is quite disturbing and restless compared to what has gone before. Iím grateful to learn that it has been used in Levyís opera Motherís Day as it gave me some background to what is going on. I found it slightly less accessible than the first two pieces but Iím sure repeated listening will pay dividends. I really must praise Naxos here because not only do they produce first class new music for around a £5.99 but also they give us great notes and a web-site from which to learn more. Both the notes and site are first class and are much easier than those of many other companies: Sony, DG and most of all EMI please take note! They even give us the web-site for the artist on the cover!

Symphony No. 3 has two movements. The Lento starts with a haunting melody before developing into variations. I found it intriguing and as with all the music on this disc I was struck by Levyís melodic invention. He clearly understands the orchestra. Compared to many modern pieces - Sir Harrison Birtwistle et al - I didnít wonder where the tune was or think Iíd have to listen to it twenty times to get whatís going on. I do feel that it would be great to hear live and think that some people who find modern classical music beyond them would warm to this. The other thing is that there are no "long hours" here as thereís always something developing. The Symphonyís second movement Vivace brings this very enjoyable selection to a conclusion. Here again Iím impressed by mood swings Ė itís not all brightness Ė there are shadows in the generally upbeat finale.

Congratulations to Frank Levy, Naxos, the splendid RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and Takuo Yuasa, not forgetting the impressive Scott Ballantyne. More please!

David R Dunsmore

See also review by David Blomenberg

For reviews of other releases in this series on Musicweb,
see the Naxos American Classics page

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