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Graham WHETTAM (1927 – 2007)
Concertino scherzoso (1950's) [10:40]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845 – 1924)
Pavane Op.50 (1887, arr. Gianluca Littera) [5:55]
Alan HOVHANESS (1911 – 2000)
Seven Greek Folk Dances Op.150 (1957) [13:33]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921 – 1992)
Oblivion (1984) [4:36]
Vilém TAUSKÝ (1910 – 2004)
Concertino for Harmonica and Orchestra (1973) [14:48]
Gianluca Littera (harmonica)
Orchestra Stesischoros/Francesco Di Mauro
rec. Teatro Vincenzo Bellini, Catania, July 2010
STRADIVARIUS STR 33875 [49:38]

There are not that many works for harmonica and orchestra. Although some of them have been recorded, there are still a number of hitherto unheard and unrecorded works to be unearthed. This is what this disc sets out to do. With the notable exception of Tauský's Concertino — recorded many years ago by Tommy Reilly and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Sir Neville Marriner (Chandos CHAN 8617), all the other works here are new to the catalogue; at least in this version. As may be easily guessed Fauré's Pavane is heard here in the soloist's own arrangement which works reasonably well. Piazzolla's Oblivion derives from the soundtrack composed for Marco Bellochio's film Enrico IV. It heard here in an arrangement by Littera. It too works quite well mainly because both harmonica and bandoneon pretty much belong to the same instrumental family.
Graham Whettam's Concertino scherzoso is something of a mystery. It had apparently disappeared and was found again much later by the present soloist. A 2002 brochure published by Whettam's own publishing firm does not list the Concertino but only mentions that the composer conducted the London Symphony Orchestra for a performance of the Concertino; that was in late 1952. It is audibly an early work but a quite pleasant one. Its three short movements never outstay their welcome and the scoring for small orchestra is both brilliant, colourful and assured. This concise and lovely work should be heard more often. It is to be hoped that this very fine performance might prompt other harmonica players to consider it.
To the best of my knowledge this recorded performance of Hovhaness's Seven Greek Folk Dances is also new to the catalogue. As might be expected from this composer the music is deftly wrought and the seven movements unfold with ease and imagination. Some Hovhaness trademarks are nevertheless much in evidence including as some rhythmically free sections. This, too, is a most welcome find although the music does plumb any great depths.
Tauský's Concertino also receives a very fine performance and one realises again what a fine piece this is. There is not much to choose between this performance and that by Tommy Reilly for whom the work was written.
Performances and recording are excellent and there is thus much to commend this somewhat unusual, though highly enjoyable release. Then again, the total playing time is shamefully short especially if this disc is sold at full price. There was ample space for other all-too-rarely heard and recorded works for harmonica such as Arthur Benjamin's fine Concerto; the latter badly in need of a new recording.
Hubert Culot