SOUNDS OF AMERICA
In illo tempore or the title-track, Mythical Spaces, the percussion textures coming closest perhaps to those artificially generated. That said, Lament, the flute part beautifully played by Wayla Chambo (for whom it was written), steals the show. Guy Rickards
Nielsen Clarinet Concerto, Op 57 (arr René Orth)a. Six Humorous Bagatelles, Op 11 (arr Stephen Cohen)b. Fantasyb. Fantasy Pieces, Op 2 (transcr D Shifrin)b. Serenata in vanoc David Shifrin cl acRyan Reynolds bn ac William Purvis hn aJon Greeney snare drum a Benjamin Hoffman, aTheodore Arm vn a Jennifer Frautschi va acMihai Marica vc ac Curtis Daily db bYevgeny Yontov pf Delos F DE3527 (51’ • DDD) ac Recorded live at Chamber Music Northwest, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, Portland, OR, July 21, 2016
Because Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto is sparsely scored for two bassoons, two horns,
snare drum and string section, the music readily lends itself to chamber downsizing for one instrument per part. If anything, René Orth’s skilful adaptation transforms the chamber-like repartee between soloist and ensemble into a fully fledged equal partnership, especially in regard to the nimble first violin part and that pesky doppelgänger of a snare drummer. In passages where Nielsen calls for two bassoons (the return to Tempo I following the first clarinet cadenza, for example), the horn simply fills in, and vice versa.
Equal partnership, of course, means equal responsibility, and each participant in this premiere recording contributes on the highest level. In turn, Nielsen’s challenging clarinet-writing poses no problems whatsoever for David Shifrin’s seasoned mastery. His prodigious breath control and effortless legato phrasing make light of the composer’s more fanciful flights, yet he’s not afraid to rough up his tone in climactic fortissimos or in his combative exchanges with Jon Greeney’s expert snare drum virtuosity. In this sense, Shifrin’s interpretation reconciles the suave demeanour of Sabine Meyer, Martin Fröst and Anthony McGill with the more daring and volatile Stanley Drucker and Olie Schill (the latter’s BIS recording with Myung-Whun Chung and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra is my version of reference).
The remaining works are more than mere fillers. I’ve never heard so robustly characterised a performance of the delicious Serenata in vano for clarinet, bassoon, cello and double bass, not to mention these lovingly nuanced readings of the early Fantasy and two Fantasy Pieces (beautifully appropriated by Shifrin from the original oboe part). And Steven Cohen’s arrangements of the Six Humorous Bagatelles transform these simple solo piano teaching pieces into ideal encores. Great sound, great annotations, great programming and great musicianship can only mean one thing: buy this disc! Jed Distler
‘American Romantics II’ Bird Gavotte Boekelman In der Einsamkeit (In Solitude) Borowski Suite Rococo. Two Pieces Cadman To a Vanishing Place Chadwick Intermezzo Foote Theme and Variations Foster My Old Kentucky Home. Old Folks at Home Gelder The Lingac Boatsong ES Kelly Confluentia L Lombard Élégie Miersch Wiegenlied (Cradle Song) Nevin La guitare (Pierrot et Pierrete) Gowanus Arts Ensemble / Reuben Blundell New Focus F FCR166B (86’ • DDD)
‘American Romantics III’ Bonvin Festzug (Festival Procession) Branscome A Memory Burleigh Rocky Mountain Sketches – At Sunset C Busch Minnehaha’s Vision. The Song of Chibiabos Cadman Thunderbird Suite E MacDowell At an Old Trysting Place DS Smith Prince Hal (An Overture), Op 31 Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra / Reuben Blundell New Focus F FCR166C (69’ • DDD)
The Australian-born conductor Reuben Blundell continues to make splendid use of the Edwin A Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia, whose holdings include thousands of familiar and neglected works. In 2016 New Focus Recordings released ‘American Romantics’ (10/16), the first result of Blundell’s exploration comprising little known music by late 19th- and early 20th-century composers born in the US or drawn to their adopted homeland. It is now followed by ‘American Romantics II’ (featuring, as on the initial release, the Brooklyn-based Gowanus Arts Ensemble) and ‘American Romantics III’ (with
Blundell leading the Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra, a community ensemble in a suburb of Philadelphia).
The word ‘American’ in these discs’ titles must be taken with a dash of salt. Whatever its provenance, most of the music sounds distinctly European, with hints of Dvo∑ák, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and any number of beloved Romantics. But what Blundell and colleagues offer is never less than appealing and accomplished, and certainly worthy of the occasional appearance on chamber and orchestral programmes.
‘American Romantics II’ begins with a favourite by the disc’s only household name, Stephen Foster: an arrangement of ‘Old Folks at Home’. The composers of the remaining pieces are remembered mostly for contributions to American academic and church life. Among them are such significant figures as George Whitefield Chadwick, represented by the charming Intermezzo, and Arthur Foote, whose bucolic Theme and Variations is an affecting and vibrant creation in the mould of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. More signs of New World influences – Native American elements and folk tunes – can be heard on ‘American Romantics III’, especially in Charles Wakefield Cadman’s Thunderbird Suite and two richly coloured scores by Carl Busch, Minnehaha’s Vision and The Song of Chibiabos. For swashbuckling allure long before Korngold seized attention in Hollywood, there’s David Stanley Smith’s Prince Hal overture. And anyone wondering how deeply Wagner inspired others should hear Ludwig Bonvin’s Festzug.
Blundell leads shapely, animated performances with both ensembles. The 10 Gowanus string players bring bountiful finesse to the repertoire, while the Lansdowne Symphony, a group of volunteer musicians, face their assignments with fine commitment. Donald Rosenberg
‘Music in the Listening Place’ Dickau If music be the food of love Dove The Passing of the Year Gilkyson Requiem Houkum The Rune of Hospitality Ravel Trois Chansons D Read Windham Slayton Three Settings of Ezra Pound Traditional Indodana Whitacre Three Songs of Faith Vanderbilt Chorale / Tucker Biddlecombe Navona F NV6142 (65’ • DDD)
From the first bars of Daniel Read’s resplendently glorious Windham to the finale,
GRAMOPHONE AUGUST 2018 V