The Naxos American
Classics series has transformed the
accessibility of American music worldwide.
A remarkable range and quantity of works
have been recorded and reissued. Look
at the Hanson, Schuman and Piston series.
Living composers such as Bolcom and
Rorem have also benefited from multiple
CD issues covering a staggering breadth
of genres. Rorem has had recordings
of songs, all three numbered symphonies
and much else. Here now are two concertos
from the last two decades and a potently
atmospheric mood-piece from the late
is for string orchestra. It is one of
a series of full orchestral works with
single word titles: Lions and
Eagles. These receive little
attention and usually appear on recordings
as adjuncts to more substantial'
works such as the concertos and symphonies.
In this respect they are similar to
another neglected sequence by the Welsh
composer William Mathias: Helios,
Vistas, Laudi and Requiescat.
Rorems writing in Pilgrims
owes something to Schuman - less gritty
perhaps - and to Roy Harris (2.23; 4:55)
with undercurrents that British music
enthusiasts will recognise from Finzi
and Tippett. The music is warm, elegiac
and poignant - a companion to the Barber
Adagio and Finzi's Romance.
The piece has nothing to do with the
Pilgrim Fathers but relates to
Hebrews 11:13: These also died in
faith, not having received the promises,
but having seen them afar off ... and
confessed that they were strangers and
pilgrims on the earth ... Now when
is someone going to give us a modern
recording of the voluptuously warm and
The Flute Concerto
is a work of piercing and fantastic
beauty: a faery flight in sound. Just
listen to the False Waltz movement
which links back to Barber's Souvenirs.
The Concerto is in six movements and
was written for Jeffrey Khaner, principal
flutist of the Philadelphia. The composer
makes no claims to any form of cyclical
structure and readily concedes that
the six movements are loosely related
and might easily have been called a
'suite'. Although this work has its
climactic dramas its territory is largely
derived from Debussy and Ravel - especially
Debussy. It is as if the Faune has been
permitted to meander again through some
realm of sorrow and contentment and
meditate amid a classical landscape
of cypress trees, peaceful groves and
lakes. The titles of the six movements
are The Stone Tower, Leaving-Traveling-Hoping;
Sirens; Hymn; False
Waltz; Resume and Prayer.
The flute is apt to this paradise world.
Jeffrey Khaner's command of technique
leaves him free to colour and stylise
the moods and vistas in what is a reference
recording of the work. This is a gloriously
ecstatic and dreamily pagan work.
The 1985 Violin
Concerto was been recorded by DG
in the 1980s and that version by Gidon
Kremer is still available from DG on
a very generously packed mid-price disc
with the violin concerto by Glass and
Bernstein’s Serenade on Deutsche Grammophon
445 185-2. Like the Flute Concerto this
work is for soloist and full orchestra
and is in six movements. While the composer
again modestly lays claims to the concerto’s
nature as a suite it has a more tautly
knit and concise feel than the Flute
Concerto. It's a more dramatic work
too. While it has its dreamily melodic
moments as in the Romance Without
Words and at the start of Dawn,
it embraces a more oxygenated vitality
as in Toccata-Rondo. While these
triangulation points may be widely spaced
you may well like this work if you respond
to the violin concertos by Barber and
Adams and the concertos by Tchaikovsky
and Delius. It ends in what seems to
be gaze at the benevolent sun of morning.
Philip Quint is an outstanding soloist
and lends a greater emotional warmth
to the Rorem than that mustered by Gidon
Kremer on the DG version. Quint impressed
with his Naxos recording of the Schuman
concerto, again with Serebrier conducting
I hope that he might be engaged by Naxos
to record the two Paul Creston violin
concertos and from an earlier era, the
Edward Burlinghame Hill concerto..
All of these works
are melodic and tonal. There is some
mild dissonance and including some sensationally
spicy harmonic 'crunches' in Pilgrims.
The language is clearly Rorem's own
but has its roots in impressionistic
French voices, Barber and even Delius.
The recording quality
throughout is sensational. It stands
Rorem and the performers in good stead
for the intimate flute solos as at the
start of a far from puritanical Hymn
and the explosive moments such as those
in The Stone Tower.
The notes are by José
Serebrier who writes extremely well
in the business of describing music
through the unpromising medium of words.
A classic album. Satisfying
and beautiful music that has about it
a rippling current of vitality.