Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Symphony No. 2 (1940-41) [25:28]
Henri LAZAROF (b.1932)
Concerto for Orchestra No. 2, Icarus (1984) [22:33]
Poema for Orchestra (1985) [13:31]
Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz
rec. 17 April 1992 and 8-9 February 1993 (Symphony No. 2); 28 May 1989 (Icarus); 8 January 1990 (Poema) at the Seattle Center Opera House, USA
Notes included in English only
NAXOS 8.572748 [61:32]
This disc contains several recordings originally released on Delos in the 1990s. Naxos has re-issued them as part of its ‘Seattle Symphony Collection’. Here we have Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony in two very different types of twentieth century music, demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of the Seattle Symphony at this period.
The Bulgarian-American composer Henri Lazarof has long been a feature of the California music scene. His Poema was written as a wedding present in 1985 for Gerard and Jody Schwarz. It starts with bell-like sonorities before alternating dramatic passages in the full orchestra with lyrical sections for solo trumpet. The opening harmonies return to finish the piece. Schwarz and the Seattle players seem to enjoy the work’s orchestral virtuosity, especially Lazarof’s bright orchestration which highlights Schwarz’s precise conducting style and the cohesiveness of the orchestra’s ensemble. These qualities are also in evidence in Lazarof’s Concerto No. 2, written for the Houston Symphony and slightly redolent of the Houston-located National Aeronautic and Space Agency (NASA). The Concerto contains a number of austere sections on high strings, which one assumes are evocative of flight, contrasted with episodes of brassy athleticism. Again the orchestra plays with verve and good ensemble, although they seem slightly less committed to the music than in the Poema.
Honegger’s Symphony No.2 is probably the best-known of his five symphonies and is frequently seen as an evocation of France under the Occupation with the third movement’s solo trumpet signifying the nation’s inevitable rebirth. The mournful tone of the introduction to the first movement is overwhelming in its description of the oppressiveness of the Occupation. This feeling continues in the Allegro proper and Schwarz and the Seattle strings forcefully convey the movement’s tone. The crucial inner voices are especially well-handled. The second movement is marked mesto and expands on its predecessor’s melodic material under intensifying levels of counterpoint. The performers handle the textural complexities with aplomb. Unfortunately, things break down in the famous Vivace as Schwarz and the players increasingly lose track of the thematic layers until the uplifting chorale finale seems like an afterthought. As the movements of the symphony were recorded at different performances, months apart, the difference between the first two movements and the Vivace should not be a surprise, but this does not mitigate one’s disappointment with the last movement. Those looking for a more fluent recording of the Honegger are referred to those by Zinman or Jansons or the older set by Dutoit [see link]. This is very much for fans of Lazarof and for Seattle Symphony completists.
For fans of Lazarof and for Seattle Symphony completists.