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GEORGE TEMPLETON STRONG (1856-1948) Symphony No. 2 Sintram (1887-88) Chorale on a Theme of Leo Hassler (1929) 7.09  Moscow SO/Adriano rec March 1998, Moscow NAXOS 8.559018 [66.35]


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Strong's is an unfamiliar name to all but the most determined and all-inclusive of collectors. The aficionado will know the name and indeed this symphony from the Karl Krueger SPAMH LP. This may I suppose be reissued by Bridge in due course but for now the present CD is the only game in town.

Strong's 'high noon' romantic Sintram symphony raises expectations in its scale (almost an hour) and in its subtitle - 'The Struggle of Mankind Against the Powers of Evil'. These ambitious goals are reflected in the first movement in monastic contemplation and some passionate climaxes. Despite the tunes being nowhere near as memorable the movement has parallels with Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet. Some of the horn calls are Brucknerian. The Langsam (II) has elements of Brucknerian languor but gives the impression of being on nodding acquaintance with the world of potted palms and grand marble hotel vestibules. The third movement is back to grand themes - and gloomy ones - 'The Three Terrible Companions: Death, the Devil and Insanity'. Brucknerian upsurges lead us into some positively Lisztian (or Saint-Saens) demonic stuff - witchery and covens. The 'Victorious Struggle' of the finale speaks in a language we know from Tchaikovsky's Hamlet and Tempest and from Liszt's Hunnenschlacht. The performance sometimes seems lumbering although that impression does not hang over the adagio or the finale. The musical ideas are nowhere near as memorable as Tchaikovsky's mainstream successes but anyone who likes the more obscure tone poems of Tchaikovsky and Liszt will enjoy this.

The Hassler Chorale is a short work from nearly 40 years after the symphony. It richly deserves to be programmed as an alternative to the Barber adagio. Its funereal pace does not close the door on considerable beauty. It also reminded me a little of Josef Suk's Wenceslas chorale.

All in all an attractive CD (good notes by the Ledins) whose low key beauties are not to be looked down on. I note that this is the first instalment in a complete series of Strong's orchestral works. I await later instalments with the keenest curiosity.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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