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100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
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Beethoven String Quartets

Produzioni Armoniche

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Shostakovich VC1 Baiba Skride
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Scarlatti Sonatas Vol 2

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

James COHN (b.1928)
Symphony No. 7 op. 45 (1967) [27:46]
Symphony No. 2 op. 13 (1949) [22:16]
Variations on ‘The Wayfaring Stranger’ op. 34 (1960) [11:28]
Waltz in D op. 29a (1957, orch. 1962) [4:01]
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Vakhtang Jordania (7; Vars) Kirk Trevor (2; Waltz)
rec. Studios 1-2 Slovak Radio, Bratislava, Slovakia, 28 September – 3 October 2001. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

The Seventh Symphony by Newark-born James Cohn – and for that matter the Second - is in four movements. The first of these is busily insistent and has about it a touch or two of Hindemith and Prokofiev as does the piping hot finale which suggests the influence of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. The Allegro cantabile is an exercise in pastoral calm – a rustic cross between his teacher Roy Harris and Copland and RVW. The salty Piston-like grotesquerie of the third movement is amusingly disquieting.

The Second Symphony is a later student work written while he was studying with Bernard Wagenaar as a Juilliard graduation piece. The piece won a Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians Prize. Its first movement charms with grace but enlivens with a hard-jawed urgency. Bartók’s concerto returns in echo in the second movement and also in the busy originality and carhorn blurt, blare and military brashness of the finale. Serial procedures inhabit the third movement but as ever this is accomplished with great textural transparency.

The Variations on ‘The Wayfaring Stranger’ deftly explores the country pastoral and is initiated by a long-winding cor anglais solo. The piece is cut from the same misty serenity as Vaughan Williams’ Dives and Lazarus and Moeran’s rhapsodies yet with a distinct Percy Grainger lilt.  The Variation were premiered by Paul Paray with the Detroit Symphony who had also introduced Cohn’s Symphony No. 3 to the public.

The little Waltz in D sidles and nudges its way into the memory. It merits a place next to the eruptive Grand Era dances in Barber’s Souvenirs and just ever so slightly recalling Ravel’s La Valse – just with less impressionistic miasma.

The recording is as clear as a bell and the orchestra puts the music across well allowing for a suggestion of shrillness in the violins. The woodwind own a direct presence and appear to lean in towards the listener.

One is certainly left intrigued to hear the remaining six symphonies. In addition there are three string quartets and five piano sonatas. Among much else there is also an opera, The Fall of the City premièred in Athens, Ohio, after winning the Ohio University Opera Award.

Rob Barnett

Previous Cohn reviews on MusicWeb International


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