SOUNDS OF AMERICA
(especially on ‘shine’) that keeps the choristers in flight. Elder is especially skilful setting his own words in three nocturnes, including a ravishing Ballade to the Moon with piano accompaniment. In contrast to much of the rest of the offerings is the dramatic character of Seven Last Words from the Cross, which contains sliding and layered lines, and a collective scream followed by a hushed conclusion.
The Westminster Choir, conducted by Joe Miller, sing everything with wonderful cohesion and clarity, bringing special tenderness to Elder’s charming version of Twinkle, twinkle little star. Donald Rosenberg
Paine Symphony No 1, Op 23. Overture to Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, Op 28. Shakespeare’s Tempest, Op 31 Ulster Orchestra / JoAnn Falletta Naxos American Classics S 8 559747 (71’ • DDD)
Apparently the amount of German Romantic orchestral music by Beethoven,
Mendelssohn and Schumann in Boston circa 1875 wasn’t enough to satisfy the public desire. No problem. John Knowles Paine, already established as a composer and Harvard educator, was ready with a full-blown German Romantic symphony of his own. Laid out in four big movements totalling 40 minutes, the Symphony careens magnificently from one widely familiar symphonic convention to another, in each case retooled ingeniously, and legitimately, for the music’s own adventurous purposes. No wonder it was a triumph for the Boston Symphony.
These fine performances by the Ulster Orchestra and JoAnn Falletta reveal, however, more than craftsmanship and a broadly trained ear. The instrumental writing is superb, often brilliantly so. The energy of the high-flying themes and the excitement created by Paine’s colourful palette and the audiophile dynamic range even lead once or twice to unexpected moments of authentic introspection.
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Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra also get into the flow of the lovely if eventually tiresome Overture to Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ and the more effective, programmedriven symphonic poem Shakespeare’s Tempest. They were both written within a few years of the Symphony and each creates absorbing, admittedly retro material that falters when a convincing climax or PHO T O G R A P H Y
The power of Paine: JoAnn Falletta records the music of compatriot John Knowles Paine in Belfast for Naxos resolution is needed and doesn’t quite materialise. When it occasionally does, as at the end of ‘Prospero’s Tale’ – replete with a Wagnerian flow – the effect is enchanting.
Recorded in Belfast’s Ulster Hall, the sound has an attractively large sound stage with impressive, natural power. Laurence Vittes
Schedl ‘A Voice Gone Silent Too Soon’ String Trio. A due. A tre. A cinque Walden Chamber Players Walden Chamber Players F 888295 001731 (64’ • DDD)
These superb performances by the Boston-based Walden Chamber Players showcase emotionally complex, deeply beautiful chamber music by the Austrian Gerhard Schedl (1957-2000). Staring out from the CD cover as if conflicted between art and privacy (he was a victim of suicide), Schedl is one of those rare composers whose musical thoughts fuse spontaneously with their emotions, like breathing, whose own distinctive voice emerges shyly.
Schedl processes his modernist musical ideas through seemingly chance, absorbing encounters ranging from desperate Second Viennese energies and late Beethoven fugues to transparent Mozartian consolations. Astounding moments of light and shade make the listener forget the music’s obvious pain. Schedl also knows how to write a devastating adagio, and has a keen ear’s infatuation with tactile sounds and their immediacy. At the opening of the String Trio’s third movement, he shows an intimate familiarity and ease with the comfort zones where instruments makes their most exquisite noises. And as good as his writing is for strings alone in the String Trio and A due for violin and cello, it is stunning when clarinettist Ben Seltzer and pianist Jonathan Bass join in for A tre and A cinque. The gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE MARH 2014 III