Exiles in Paradise – Emigré Composers in Hollywood
Brinton Averil Smith (cello)
Evelyn Chen (piano)
rec. 2018, Rice University, Houston, USA NAXOS 8.579055 [66:18]
This is a welcome and imaginatively organized collection and it is very attractively packaged with intelligent and very helpful notes by its cellist, Brinton Averil Smith. He not only gives the life spans of each composer but also the dates they were active in Los Angeles. We are also reminded that Castelnuovo-Tedesco scored over 200 movies and tutored André Previn, Henry Mancini and John Williams, among others. A standout item in this collection is Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s very colourful and vibrant Spanish flavoured, I nottambuli (Variazioni fantastiche).
The collection, comprising music by composers compelled to seek sanctuary from repressive European regimes before and at the beginning of World War II, opens with Leopold Godowsky’s Alt Wien (Old Vienna) a lilting tribute to the romance of the City. Rachmaninov’s signature nostalgic yearning for his homeland, mixed with the sort of resignation of the exiled, informs his Morceaux de fantasie, Serenade. And there is a feeling of melancholic isolation about Stravinsky’s Berceuse – a disconsolate head-bowed Firebird, this; a sadness that is shared by Schoenberg’s piece. Achron’s lighter more lyrically sentimental Moods pieces bring some relief. And Gruenberg’s Jazette adds a not unattractive colour range with its ragtime influence. Toch’s expressive Impromptus were a 60th birthday gift to Piatigorski. Rózsa’s Toccata was also dedicated to Piatigorski, although posthumously. Korngold’s Much Ado … Suite is probably the best known item here and it has to be said that although Averil Smith and Chen make the best of it, the sparkle of Korngold’s original orchestrated inspiration is rather lost here. The vibrancy of the Castelnuovo-Tedesco piece also suffers somewhat but the overall impression is attractive enough. So too is the colour and excitement of Waxman’s Carmen Fantasie.
I was unsure about the reason for including the Gershwin but it made an attractive conclusion to an interesting collection well performed and presented.
1) Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938) Triakontameron – No.1, Alt Wien (1919 20) (arr. Heifetz) [2.28]
2) Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Serenade, Op.3, No.5 (1892 rev.1940) (arr. B. Smith) [3.05]
3) Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) Berceuse (1910) (arr. Stravinsky/S. Dushkin) [3.03]
4) Arnold SHOENBERG (1874-1951) Saget mir, auf welchem Pfade Op.15, No.5 (1908) [1.09]
5) Joseph ACHRON (1886-1943) Stimmungen, Op.32, No.1 (1910) [1.51]
6) Louis GRUENBERG (1884-1964) Jazzette, Op.26, No.3 (1924) [3.11]
7-9) Ernst TOCH (1887-1964)
Three Impromptus, Op.90c (1963) [6.09]
10) Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968) I nottambuli (Variazioni fantastiche) Op.47 (1927) [13.55]
11) Miklós RÓZSA (1907-1995) Toccata capricciosa (1977) [5.49]
12- 15) Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957) Much Ado About Nothing Suite, Op.11 (1918-20) [11.26]
16) Franz WAXMAN (1906-1967) Carmen Fantasie (1946) (arr. D. Grigorian) [10.58]
17) George GERSHWIN (1898-1937) It Ain’t Necessarily So (1935) (arr. Heifetz) [2.37]
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