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Louis GLASS (1864-1936)
Symphony No. 3 in D major Forest, op. 30 (1900-1) [35:27]
Summer Life op. 27 [29:45]
Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie/Daniel Raiskin
rec. Rhein-Mosel-Halle Koblenz, 1–4 September 2009
No booklet supplied
Reviewed as lossless flac download
CPO 777 525-2 [65:12]

Louis Glass was a Danish composer, born only a year before Carl Nielsen. Both were students of Niels Gade. Clearly, Glass listened and was influenced, unlike Nielsen. This is the first music of Glass that I have heard, though I had read and been intrigued by Rob Barnett’s reviews of Danacord recordings from Bulgaria (see review of Symphony 3). The implication was that this was good music crying out for a much better orchestra. Such would now seem to be the case, as CPO has entered the fray. I assume that this is Volume 1, and that the remaining five symphonies will appear in due course. Given the recording date of this one, it may be that some or all are already in the can.

If like me, you have no knowledge of what this music is like, think Schumann with lighter textures, Mendelssohn without quite the level of genius. As I write this, suddenly a little Tchaikovskian waltz appears, and then a few brass fanfares that bring Wagner to mind. I use these analogies as a guide only. Glass has his own voice, and wow, can he write a tune. Both works are strewn with memorable melodies.

The forest of the symphony is a sun-drenched and pastoral one. The Summer Life suite even has a movement titled Forest Idyll. This might be my only reservation about the music, or at least the coupling: a little darkness or storminess would help to provide a contrast. This aside, I can only look forward eagerly to the rest of the series, especially Symphony No. 5, which Rob has described as a “sweeping masterwork”. He bemoaned the quality of the Bulgarian orchestra. I have no such reservations with the Koblenz orchestra, and while the sound is perfectly satisfactory, it could be a little more transparent.

Finally, a complaint. Given the limited information about Glass available on the web (his Wikipedia entry is all of six lines), I looked forward to reading the booklet. Those from CPO are always packed with information, if occasionally a little abstruse. Imagine my irritation when I found that the online retailers of lossless downloads were not supplying the booklet. Cue dark mutterings under the breath – this is one of my pet peeves, but I will restrain myself from going on at length about it here. I should explain that for storage reasons I am trying to avoid purchasing physical CDs. I then saw that a booklet was available through Classicsonline — but only with the music as mp3 — and by extension, the Naxos Music Library. Aha, I thought, a workaround: buy the lossless download and get the booklet from NML. This is what I did, only to find that when I opened the booklet file, it was all of three pages long, the front and back covers, and completely uselessly, the first inside page of the booklet which simply duplicates the track-listing from the back cover. Cue extended mutterings. Hence, I am none the wiser about Glass.

This is really delightful music, and would be worthy of a Recording of the Month award, but by not supplying a proper booklet with the download, it will have to do without.

David Barker