PISTON: Variations On A Theme by Edward Burlingame Hill ( (1963). Divertimento
for Nine Instruments (1946). Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra. (1967).
Concero for Orchestra (1933).
BARBER: Knoxviille: Summeer of 1915 (1947). Medea (complete original
ballet). A Hand of Bridge (1959)
This new BMOP SACD featuures important works by Samuel Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915, is a setting of a prose poem by Jame Agee. It was commissioned by American soprano Eleanor Steber collaborating with Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony. They gave the premiere April 9, 1948, and since that time there have been many recordings including those by Reneé Fleming, Leontyne Price and Dawn Upshaw. This new disk features Barber's complete score for the ballet Medea written in 1947 for Martha Graham.The composer made a Decca recording of the complete score with the New Symphony Orchestra, and many collectors will recall the later recordings of Meditation and Dance of Vengeance (track 8 on this new recording) by Charles Munch with the Boston Symphony, and Thomas Schippers with the New York Philharmonic for Columbia..A Hand if Bridges sometimes is called an opera, but it really isn't. Only 10 minutes long, it contains no arias. It is a collaboration between Barber and his partner, Gian Carlo Menotti. The four players in this game reminisce about their lives and feelings for each other in a rather boring way. This score, jazz oriented, is quite popular as it takes few performers, but as an opera it surely doesn't amount to much. Kirsten Watson is excellent in Knoxville.
The other SACD features another American composer, Walter Piston (1894 - 1976). He was a distinguished composer who received a number of major awards. His works include the ballet The Incredible Flutist and seven symphonies, most of which have been forgotten. There are no memorable examples of Americana to be found here, unfortunately. Piston taught at Harvard for many years and had a strong relationship with the Boston Symphony. His Symphony No. 6 was commissioned in 1955 for the 75th anniversary season. of that orchestra. In 1933 he wrote his brief Concerto for Orchestra here recorded for the first time It's neglect is understandable Another premiere recording is Variations on a Theme by Edward Burlingame Hill. He was a colleague of Piston at Harvard,and the theme is taken from an unpublished Prelude for flute, repeated in various orchestrations during the 9:32 duration of this tedious piece. This is the first and probably last recording of this boring work. More interesting is Divertimento for Nine Instruments written in 1946. A quiet middle movement is surrounded by two lively sections. There are four sections to the brief (12:46) Clarinet Concerto composed in 1967 each separated by a brief cadenza. This is not a major addition to the clarinet concerto catalog. On both of these SACDs the superb orchestra and conductor Gil Rose do what can be done for this repertory. All of these recordings were made 2009 - 2015 and audio is up to BMOP's usual high standard. The label missed a golden multi-channel opportunity. For the Barber A Hand of Bridge, it would have been effective if they had the four soloists separated into four corners.
R.E.B. (July 2021