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George TEMPLETON STRONG ((1856-1948) Symphony No.2 in G minor "Sintram",  Chorale on a Theme of Hans Leo Hassler Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adriano NAXOS American Classics 8.559018 [66:35]



George Templeton Strong was an American Romantic who lived in Switzerland. He was a colleague and friend of MacDowell. Strong lived to 92 and composed grandiose musical works and painted evocative watercolours. His music was once championed by Ansermet, Szigeti, Iturbi and Toscanini.

Strong's Symphony No.2 "Sintram" is subtitled - "The Struggle of Mankind Against the Powers of Evil". Lasting practically an hour, it is modelled on de la Motte Fouqué's romance with additional inspiration from Albrecht Dürer's famous Ritter, Tod und Teufel (The Knight, Death and the Devil). Briefly Fouqué's Sintram tells of Björn a cruel, despotic Nordic knight and his son Sintram whose life is blighted by a curse resulting from his father's misdeeds. The story culminates in the comforting power of Christianity in which they finally find peace as opposed to the indulgence of wild passions nurtured by barbarous feudal customs. These opposing elements are juxtapositioned in the music, of the first two movements, which is clearly influenced by Wagner. The third movement is reminiscent of Berlioz. It is entitled The Three Terrible Companions: Death, the Devil and Insanity and is a vivid evocation of the Dürer woodcut (see CD booklet cover illustration) with is picture of poisonous plants, hideous creatures and death riding beside the knight who rides on unconcerned and determined to reach his goal - the castle in the background. It also alludes to Fouqué's romance. It is clear from the oriental/belly dance-type figures that Strong considers the sins of the flesh to be very much the work of the devil. The final movement, The Victorious Struggle is an expression of hope for the future in the struggle against evil. The music is suitably heroic and mystical. Without being very originl this work has atmosphere and thrills enough with the third movement containing the most arresting music.

Adriano delivers a thrilling and evocative reading.

The much shorter Chorale (seven minutes) was orchestrated in 1929. Hassler's Chorale, Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden (When the Last Hour Comes) was originally published in 1601. It sounds like a funeral procession and indeed one writer pointed out the irony that Strong wrote the work around the time of the stock-market crash and the start of the Great Depression!

It is moving enough.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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