Symphonic Sketches (1895-1905) 30.07
Melpomene Overture (1887) 13.03
Tam O'Shanter (Symphonic Poem) (1915) 19.27
Czech State PO/Jose Serebrier
recorded 2-5 April 1995, Stadion Hall, Brno REFERENCE RECORDINGS RR-64CD
Suite Symphonique (1909) 35.62
Aphrodite (Symphonic Poem) (1910) 28.18
Elegy (1887) 7.50
Czech State PO/Jose Serebrier
recorded 3-7 June 1996, Stadion Hall, Brno REFERENCE RECORDINGS RR-74CD
There was a time when the names of Parker, Chadwick, Gilbert and Beech meant
hardly anything except to the dedicated musicologist. These figures and many
others from the North American musical renaissance of the period 1880-1920
and beyond had their meed of success during their lifetimes but after that
oblivion swept their works away. A similar thing happened to Mackenzie, Tovey,
Stanford and Parry.
Of course there are always exceptions and in the world of recordings there
have been a few. The Society for the Promotion of the American Musical Heritage
(SPAMH) issued many LPs featuring Chadwick and his contemporaries during
the 1960s. The names of Karl Krueger and the Royal philharmonic orchestra
and the MIA LP prefix will always be associated with that series. There is
now some reason to hope that Bridge Records will be reissuing that series
on CD. Howard Hanson on Mercury recorded a number of works from this era.
In the 1970s the conductor Kenneth Klein conducted the LSO in an interesting
collection for EMI. More recently still Albany and Chandos (the latter with
the Detroit SO and Neeme Järvi) have been exploring this repertory.
Paine's two symphonies have been recorded by New World with Mehta and the
Chadwick was forced to leave high school early but through dedication and
long hours of study completed studies in German, literature and history.
Disinherited he left America and studied with Jadassohn and Reinecke in Leipzig.
Later he studied with Rheinberger at Munich. After his three years on the
Continent he returned to the States on the staff of the New England Conservatory
finally rising in 1897 to the position of Director of the Conservatory.
By 1893 he composed had three works named and numbered as 'Symphony'. A further
three multi-movement symphonic scores were to follow: Symphonic Sketches
(1895-1905), Sinfonietta in D (1908) and Suite Symphonique
(1910). The first and last are recorded on this pair of discs.
Symphonic Sketches is in four movements; each picturesquely titled.
Jubilee is Dvorákian and has an eager energy reminiscent of
the more demonstrative portions of Dvorák's Fifth and Sixth symphonies.
At 3:50 coincidentally a little fanfare figure sounds as if it might have
been written in tribute to the New World Symphony. Chadwick is a master coiner
of fine themes (try the one at 4:20) and Jubilee ends in blazing glory
with savagely sonorous brass. Noel is the second movement and summons
through some ripely romantic string and woodwind writing, the spirit of a
child's Christmas. Chadwick's son (named Noel) was a year before he started
work on this movement. Hobgoblin has dancing woodwind is the least
substantial of the four movements. The side-drum and xylophone are used very
effectively in a Vagrom Ballad reflecting Chadwick's experience of
seeing a down-and-outs encampment. The moods flit and transform constantly.
At 6.00 there is a very serious string statement imbued with romantic passion.
The movement ends in crashing grandeur which seemed rather dutifully grafted
on to an intrinsically very attractive work.
The Melpomene overture is quite Tchaikovskian. In the introduction
it is rather like Romeo and Juliet although it does not have the
world-conquering themes of the Tchaikovsky work. Instead it has a Brahmsian
darkness and some gloriously liquid Slavonic horns at 9.03. If anyone this
work sounds rather like Glazunov.
Tam O'Shanter is a major discovery. Banish Arnold's fine comic overture from
your mind. This is a serious fantasy symphonic poem. Gales are invoked, horns
cut excitingly through the texture and there is some really fine brashly
vivacious writing for the horns in this work. Other notable signposts include
the sound of woodblocks makes an exotic effect in a wild dance. This is not
a comedy overture rather it reflects Mussorgsky's Night on the Bare
Mountain and the highly coloured poetry of Rimsky-Korsakov. Although
there is a slight skirl and some Scottish flavour there is thankfully nothing
of the music-hall Tartan in this music. The work ends in Dvorákian
The second disc plays for almost ten minutes longer. It opens with the symphonic
suite. This time there are no gaudy titles for the movements apart from the
usual temperament indications. Again the music is rhythmically inventive
and varied with some blastingly devastating brass writing. The movement (allegro)
ends in heroic tumult. A relaxed Romanza follows with a prominent part for
saxophone. The third movement Intermezzo and Humoreske is rhythmically
very engaging in a Tchaikovskian way perhaps like Hakon Borresen's first
symphony (available on CPO and Marco Polo). The finale deploys the xylophone
and has a stamping grand symphonic conclusion. This is a work (and a performance)
of distinction, excitement and allure.
The sensuous and the erotic are not what may be expected of the East Coast
school. However in his half-hour symphonic poem Aphrodite Chadwick
has learnt from Franck's Psyche, a work with which the Chadwick piece
has many affinities. The Easterner, from a sternly religious family milieu,
has absorbed a Californian approach to life. This is the most voluptuously
French piece on the two discs. You can hear the water lapping the shore and
all too easily be drawn into a scene from a Mediterranean fantasy by Alma-Tadema.
The piece has a good deep-sea theme, foam flecked and wave crashed, breathing
blue-green romance. The work has many moments of quietly sensuous poetry
and Track 9 is of outstanding beauty.
The Elegy for Horatio Parker is quietly passionate without too much all-purpose
'nobilmente'. It has a sense of anger at loss which tells us that Parker
and Chadwick were close friends. This is no formal tribute.
Stephen Ledbetter's excellent notes are a strength of both discs.
Warmly recommended for fine rare repertoire and typically sprung, lively
sound with power and subtlety aplenty. If you cannot run to two discs then
go for RR74CD.
I trust that Reference have not turned their backs on rare repertoire and
I hope they will do more rare and unrecorded Americana. The field is wide
open. Meantime enjoy these discs which are perhaps the stronger because of
the international input: Uruguayan conductor and Czech orchestra.