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Symphonie No. 2, ‘À Montevideo’, RO 257 (1868/1869) [11:13] Célèbre Tarantelle pour piano et orchestre, Op. 67, RO 259 (1868) [6:07] Escenas Campestres Cubanas – Opéra en 1 acte, RO
77 (1859/1860) [13:23] Variations de concert sur l'hymne portugais du Roi Louis I, Op.
91, RO 289(1869)[12:32] Ave Maria, RO 10 (arr. R. Rosenberg for voice and
orchestra) (c. 1864) [5:56] La Casa del Joven Enrique por Méhul –Gran
overture, RO 54b (arr. Gottschalk for three pianos, 10 hands
and orchestra) (1861) [11:07] Symphonie romantique, ‘La nuit des tropiques’(A
Night in the Tropics), RO 255 (1859) [16:14]
Anna Noggle (soprano); Darryl Taylor (tenor); Richard Ziebarth (bass-baritone)
Melissa Barrick (soprano) (RO10)
John Contiguglia, Richard Contiguglia, Angela Draghicescu, Chin-Ming Lin, Joshua
Pepper (pianos) (RO54b)
Hot Springs Festival Symphony Orchestra/Joshua Rosenberg
rec. 7, 11-12, 14-15 June 2006, Hot Springs Youth Center,
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. 3-12 June 1999, Horner
Hall, Hot Springs Civic and Convention Center, Arkansas (RO255).
Texts and translations provided NAXOS AMERICAN
CLASSICS 8.559320 [76:32]
Chopin of the Creoles’, spent most of his short life on concert
platforms in Europe, the US and especially South America.
Extraordinary then that he found time to write music, much
of it lost when he died of peritonitis at the age of 39.
As the composer’s biographer S. Frederick Starr remarks in
the CD booklet, reconstructing the surviving material from
smudged originals and inaccurate copies was an enormous task.
The results are presented here by talented young players
who respond enthusiastically to these erratic but entertaining
music it isn’t, although anyone who has sampled Philip Martin’s
excellent traversal of Gottschalk’s piano music on Hyperion
will know the composer wrote some astonishingly original
and inventive pieces. Just sample the jaw-dropping virtuosity
of Tremolo, Grande étude de concert RO 265 in Volume
5 (Hyperion CDA67248) and you will get some idea of Gottschalk’s
command of the instrument.
as so often with piano virtuosi – Chopin, Schumann and Liszt
come to mind – one might feel their orchestral works are
not always as enduring (or endurable) as their solo pieces.
And so it proves with Gottschalk. Despite its subtitle ‘Á Montevideo’ the
second symphony doesn’t sound at all South American in orchestration
or rhythms; if anything it sounds Mendelssohnian, especially
in the Presto with its echoes of the ‘Italian’ symphony.
There is a certain litheness to the writing, although the
reconstructed timpani parts – Gottschalk was notoriously
lax in annotating them – add a degree of bloat to the orchestral
textures. He does offer a hint of carnival, though, with
what sounds like the whistle of celebratory fireworks.
the symphony isn’t long enough to outstay its welcome; the
same goes for Gottschalk’s ‘show-off piece’ the Tarantella,
which boasts some wonderfully muscular rhythms and a scintillating,
Lisztian piano part. There is more of a Latin temperament
in the music as well, which is presented here in the composer’s
recently discovered original version. Add to that an irresistible
jauntiness and it’s hard not to smile, especially at that
spirited little figure that gallops through the piece.
operas and many other works were lost after his death but
his one-acter has been painstakingly reconstructed for this
recording. These Cuban country scenes – penned for one of
the composer’s legendary Havana concerts – bring out the
Latin flavour from the start. The orchestral players seem
to relish the music’s vitality and hip-swaying rhythms and
conductor Rosenberg does an admirable job of keeping it all
together. The soloists are excellent – and suitably histrionic
when required – though it’s hardly the most taxing music
to sing. Still, it’s a heady mix of styles (is that a Straussian
waltz buried in there somewhere)?
can just imagine the audience savouring this bit of romantic
silliness on a sultry Caribbean summer’s night. Included
in the fun are some genuine fireworks (vocal this time) courtesy
of Anna Noggles’ athletic soprano. If the work never quite
achieves a proper dramatic or musical shape that hardly matters,
as it’s all so engaging.
Brazilian emperor Pedro I (1838-1889) is credited with the
majestic march tune used in the concert variations. There
is one small problem though: Gottschalk only notated the
first variation and a scale for piano, so Michael Gurt (who
also happens to be a piano professor) had to reconstruct
the solo part for this recording. And a good job it is, too.
The orchestration is Berliozian in its weight and gravitas,
the pianist providing what amounts to a string of mercurial
cadenzas in between.
at around 7:50 Gottschalk launches into an altogether more
reflective, melancholy episode. For a moment it seems like
a different work entirely, such is the change of mood and
pace. This is much more reminiscent of his piano pieces in
terms of rhythmic subtlety and colouring Of course the finale
is suitably stirring in its martial splendour. Special mention
to Rosenberg for springing the rhythms so well; the music
could so easily become stolid otherwise. And the Naxos engineers
have achieved a natural balance too, with just the right
degree of warmth. (The somewhat boomy bass in some of the
climaxes probably has more to do with Gottschalk’s reconstructed
scores than any technical shortcomings.)
Maria – in Rosenberg’s arrangement for two clarinets,
two bassoons, four horns, harp and strings – marks yet
another change of mood. It is a sickly sweet confection
with more than a hint of the Fauré Requiem about
it. Melissa Barrick sings it in a faux-naïf style
that is frankly toe-curling in its awfulness. Definitely
not Gottschalk’s – or Rosenberg’s – finest hour.
least the Young Henry overture cleanses the palate
with its bracing horns. The three pianos don’t appear for
quite some time but when they do it’s clear this is Gottschalk
in scintillating form. Over the top? Without question, but
the Hot Springs band play with such passion and brio that
it’s impossible to resist the music’s gaudy charm. The Haydnesque
hunting calls are just spectacular, the pianists making the
most of Gottschalk’s virtuoso writing. Admittedly the orchestral
textures are a little clotted at times but there is a sweep
to the music that is entirely appropriate, given that Méhul’s
opera Le jeune Henri (1797) is the model here. Most
you’re feeling a little flustered after all that then try
a little (tropical) night music. This recording uses Rosenberg’s
score, reconstructed from the composer’s autograph. The music
has an unusual delicacy and transparency (for Gottschalk)
and a rich vein of lyricism, too. The symphony also calls
for a large orchestra – 650 players in the composer’s own
performances – but thankfully Gottschalk doesn’t overplay
his hand, keeping the extras for the big moments (of which
there are surprisingly few)..
second movement, aptly titled ‘Festa Criolla’, has all the
energy of the carnival, although Gottschalk’s earlier lyricism
is not entirely eclipsed. In some ways it’s a rather low-key
and sometimes laboured piece, with little of the fizz of
the earlier overture. That said the celebrations end in a
suitably rousing fashion.
one or two caveats this collection is as good an introduction
to Gottschalk’s œuvre as any. Yes, the inspiration
is sporadic, but with so much reconstruction required what
we hear is probably only an approximation of what the composer
intended anyway. The liner notes are rather basic but then
this disc is just a primer; if you want to hear Gottschalk
at his best Philip Martin’s survey is the place to look.
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