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Jamestown Concerto
William PERRY (b. 1930)
Jamestown Concerto (2007) [24:41]

William SCHUMAN (1910Ė1992)
A Song of Orpheus (1962) [23:04]

Virgil THOMSON (1896Ė1989)
Cello Concerto (1945/1950) [23:33]

Yehuda Hanani (cello)
RT National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland/William Eddins
rec. 23, 24, 30 April 2007, National Concert Hall, Dublin. DDD
NAXOS 8.559344


Experience Classicsonline

This is most welcome; three concerted works for cello and orchestra by Americans never heard outside the USA. We havenít had much chance to hear Perryís work because it is brand new and was premi
Ťred only four months before this recording was made. 

I recently reviewed a Naxos disk of film music by Perry and I was not impressed for much of it seemed trite. This Concerto, however, is quite different. In five movements, each introduced by the soloist, the music, which was commissioned to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first permanent colony at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, commemorates certain events and places, but letís not worry about that now. Itís the music which matters and this is a delightful divertissement of a piece, light and frothy, with good tunes and sparkling orchestrations. Thereís nothing profound or searching about it but it communicates, and thatís half the battle these days! 

Schumanís Song of Orpheus was written for Leonard Rose, who gave the premiŤre in 1962 and recorded it, with the Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by George Szell on 11 January 1964 (Sony (Japan) SRCR 2560). Itís a one movement meditation on the famous lines by Shakespeare, preceding this performance actress Jane Alexander reads the poem. Schumanís work is not as vivacious as the poem, being quite dark at times, especially the opening which doesnít seem to have anything to do with Orpheus and his lute making trees and the mountaintops that freeze, and I donít feel any connection, anywhere in the work, with the concept of killing care and grief of heart, but the end could be said to mirror the final lines ďÖfall asleep or hearing, dieĒ. Perhaps we should forget the poem and understand the music as a very beautiful evocation for soloist and orchestra; itís quite approachable and it doesnít have any of the slightly academic feel, and angularity, which some of Schumanís music displays. Quite simply, this is a superb work for cello and smallish orchestra. 

Virgil Thomsonís Concerto is rather more serious than one might expect, and itís in a very discernable classical form. There have been other recordings over the years, most notably by Luigi Silva (the dedicatee of the work) with the Janssen Symphony of Los Angeles, Werner Janssen (coupled with a Suite for Orchestra from the opera The Mother of Us All (CBS AML 4468 Ė 1973)) and this is the second recording of it on CD in recent years. Each of the three movements have descriptive titles. The first is Rider on the Plains and itís open air music, one can almost see the man on horseback, his Stetson on his head, riding off into the sunset after a job well done. The slow movement is a set of variations on a Southern Hymn Tune and it is stately and measured, but never sombre. The finale is named Childrenís Games and it is skittish and great fun Ė with a prominent part for xylophone. As the Concerto fell out of the repertoire Ė Pierre Fournier and Anthony Pini had championed it Ė Thomson wondered if the solo part was too difficult but a performance as committed as this proves that, in the long run, Thomson was right not to tamper with the piece. 

Soloist Yehuda Hanani, who plays brilliantly throughout, has a special connection with all of the music on this disk. He gave the premiŤre of the Perry, studied with Leonard Rose for whom Schuman wrote his work and he plays the cello used by Paul Olefsky at the first performance of Thomsonís Concerto in 1950. He is ably partnered by the RT Orchestra under its former Principal Guest Conductor. The notes are very good and the recording, if a little dry, is clear with a good balance between soloist and orchestra. 

This is a very interesting disk of American cello concertos and, as with so many of Naxosís disks of neglected music, it makes us yearn to hear the pieces in the flesh. This is a real bargain for anyone wanting to investigate some newer music which they might otherwise, at top price, ignore. Enjoy it.

Bob Briggs


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