Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
From the Middle Ages, Suite Op. 79 (1902) [24:48]
Arcady DUBENSKY (1890-1966)
Fugue for 18 Violins (1932) [4:25]
Stephen Foster: Theme, Variations and Finale (1940) [12:16]
Otto CESANA (1899-1980)
Negro Heaven (c. 1933) [7:52]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Porgy and Bess; A Symphonic Picture (1935) arr. Robert Russell Bennett [19:46]
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra/Fabien Sevitzky
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC509 [69:09]
One of Pristine Audio’s interesting side-lines is in the recordings of conductor Fabien Sevitzky. Their restorations shine much welcome light on obscurities in the repertoire in niche 78s that have been heard barely at all since they were first set down. In the case of the second volume of his Indianapolis Symphony recordings the repertoire is Russian and American. One says ‘niche’ but in fact all the recordings were made for Victor between 1941 and 1945.
Sevitzky, who was the nephew of Serge Koussevitzky, directs Glazunov’s enchanting suite From the Middle Ages with real feeling. The romantic allure of the writing is never stinted and whilst one would need the more brazen recorded quality accorded Svetlanov decades later fully to draw out the romance and the colour of the score, Sevitzky and his forces fall little short. He brings out the basses descriptively in the third panel, the Serenade of the Troubadour, evoking its melancholic chanson, and proves valorous and stirring in the proud finale, its evocative cantilena excellently evoked.
Stokowski recorded Arcady Dubensky’s music during his Philadelphia years. Significantly the Fugue for 18 Violins was performed by Sevitzky during his own tenure in the city as director of the Philadelphia Chamber String Simfonietta. He also premiered Stephen Foster. The fugue is rather genial and brief, lyrical and confident, whilst the Foster consists of a theme, variations and finale. There’s lightly burnished nostalgia here, tempo accelerations, skirling strings, droll pizzicati; there’s Oh Susannah! with coy flute solo and manly horns, and there’s a back-porch banjo as well as a violin solo from leader Leon Zawisza. Tunes are drawn out and explored before Beautiful Dreamer comes sweeping in. Otto Cesana was something of a crossover artist, and in fact he was respected enough for Leonard Feather to include him in one of his Encyclopaedias of Jazz. Negro Heaven has a lush Gershwinesque quality to it: Duke Ellington might well have called it a ‘tone parallel’ – had it been rather better.
The final piece is an arrangement by one of my favourites, Robert Russell Bennett, of Porgy and Bess. True, as Mark Obert-Thorn points out in his note, Bennett introduces a bassoon for I got plenty o’ nuttin rather than the customary banjo but this is still a thoroughly enjoyable piece of work, made to Fritz Reiner’s ground-plan and ordering. This was its first complete recording, in fact, pipping Reiner’s own to the post.
Pristine has released a disc devoted to recordings Sevitzky made with Philadelphia Chamber String Simfonietta (PASC 375) and additionally of the music of Harl McDonald with the Indianapolis on PASC491. Then there’s the Manfred symphony on PASC479. That’s a valuable chunk of repertoire in prone-to-be-overlooked performances. The good work continues here too.