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Nicolas FLAGELLO (1928-1994)
Missa Sinfonica (1957) [34:37]
Arnold ROSNER (b. 1945)
Symphony No. 5 Missa sine Cantoribus super Salve Regina (1973) [40:08]
National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/John McLaughlin Williams
rec. Large Concert Studio, National Radio Company of Ukraine (Kiev), 14-18 June 2006
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559347 [74:45]
Experience Classicsonline


Both these composers, one Catholic, the other Jewish – and both far less well known than they ought to be – have written works following the Ordinary of the Catholic Mass. They are conceived for orchestral forces, not vocal ones, and explore powerful, lyrical and impressive turns of phrase. I have to say at the outset that I was greatly taken by both and have returned to them several times.

 

Flagello died in 1994. His Missa Sinfonica has real hymnal beauty. It kowtows to no formula or prescribed aesthetic other than that of genuine musical truthfulness to its subject material. There are neo-romantic moments throughout, ones that perhaps align with Creston, though in its more surging and colouristic moments Khachaturian can come to mind as can – very different but exhibiting the same concern for lyricism and religious intensity – George Lloyd. The festive Gloria is a treat – did it lack sufficient earnestness for its auditors? More fool they. The frank string pliancy has a fulminous beauty no question, unselfconscious, warm, and some passages that sound like veiled Bernstein with hints of Cuban dance rhythms. The warm central panel of this movement is an unceasing delight. The plainchant vein that runs through the Credo maybe also hint at Vaughan Williams; there’s a noble grandeur in the peroration. The assertive and celebrity Sanctus and Benedictus have a “stomp without words” feel and prepare one for the solemn tread of the Agnus Dei; Walton and Barber have their place here amid the powerful climax of this invigorating, splendid work.

 

Those words apply also to Rosner’s Symphony No.5 Missa sine Cantoribus super Salve Regina, which was written in 1973. This is a “neo-modal” work strongly redolent of VW. Rosner’s use of strings and harp in the Kyrie – and throughout - summons up the English composer but there are also brassy climaxes that maybe invite thoughts of Honegger. The Gloria is as light as a Renaissance dance with a fugal section like a brass canone and sporting incremental filmic force. The brass, strings and winds are saturated in Renaissance music in the Sanctus and Rosner hardly stints the climax of this movement – a seismic, MGM piledriver that affirms life in all its richness and strength. Surging power immediately surfaces for the Agnus Dei – as well as torrents of ardent lyricism winnowing to a quiet affirmatory close.

 

Neither of these works trades in any bogus -isms other than pure lyricism. They are strong, communicative, tender, agile and exciting. And they’re played here with roistering power and drama. Rather than duplicate yet another disc in your collection expand your horizons with these two vibrant American statements.

 

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Rob Barnett

 

 


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