'DVORÁK IN AMERICA"
ENESCU: Isis (Symphonic poem for Female Chorus and Orchestra). Symphony
No. 5 in D (for Tenor, Female Chorus and Orchestra).
CHIN: Piano Concerto. Cello Concerto. Su for Sheng and Orchestra
PARTCH: Castor and Pollux. Ring Around the Moon. Even Wild Horses
Here's an unusual CD from Naxos devoted to music by Dvorák and music inspired by him relating to his time in America .Dvorák apparently was considering composing a setting of Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha but never got around to it. Some of his music for the proposed project was instead included in his Symphony No. 9. In an attempt to rectify this, Dvorák scholars Joseph Horowitz an Michael Beckerman have produced Hiawatha Melodrama, for narrator (here Kevin Dias) and orchestra. The score includes excerpts from Symphony No. 9 and other music written by Dvrorák during his "American" period, with appropriate connecting interludes composed by Angel Gil-Ordóñez, who conducts. We also have "Goin' Home," for bass-baritone and orchestra with a text by William Arms Fischer, and several other works of the period. The program ends with two pieces by Arthur Farwell, Navajo War Dance No. 2, and Pawnee Horses heard in a piano solo version as well as an arrangement for chorus. Excellent performances throughout, and text is provided for Hiawatha. This is a fascinating, unusual disk worthy of investigation.
George Enescu (1881-1955) is known best today for his two Romanian Rhapsodies, but he compose many other fascinating works. He was highly esteemed as a violin teacher (his pupils included Yehudi Menuhin, Arthur Grumiaux, Christian Ferras and Ida Handel) and as a conductor appearing with many major orchestras. Enecu first started to compose Isis in 1913 including some ideas from his opera Oedipus. The score was discovered in an archive in Bucharest and reconstructed/orchestrated by musicologist and composer Pascal Bentoiu; the premiere was in 1999, No details are given about the symphonic poem. Isis was a goddess of fertility, wife of Osiris and mother of Horus (and surely has nothing to do with the current brutal inhumane Islamic militant group now committing atrocities in Syria and Iraq). This 19-minute work is a gentle, shimmering maze of glistening sound marked by soft high percussion including a wordless female chorus that adds to the exotic texture. Symphony No. 5 was sketched by Enescu in 1941 and again has been expanded and orchestrated by Pasal Bentoin. There are 5 movements, evoking memories of childhood and folk tunes, and the work ends with a lovely appropriately sad funeral march featuring a tenor soloist singing a poem by Romanian national poet Mihail Eminescu, I have one last wish by, accompanied by a gentle female chorus; text is provided for this. Here is an opportunity to hear new music by a major composer in loving performances beautifully recorded.
South Korean composer Unsuk Chin (b. 1961) is recognized as a powerful force in contemporary music, with her own style always trying to write music that tests the extremes of instruments. Winner of many prizes, her music has been commissioned and performed by leading orchestras and ensembles, and her violin concerto has been hailed as the most important concerto for the instrument in recent decades. Now we have this intriguing disk of three concertos, the longest being the cello concerto written 2008-2013. In all of these, the soloist is not "accompanied," rather challenged and sometimes hidden. Unusual sonorities and percussive effects abound, and the ear is constantly experiencing new sounds. The piano concerto (19996-1997) is incredibly intricate with much dialogue between soloist, winds and percussion. At the conclusion of the final moment it just softly tinkles away (the two other concertos also end softly). I cannot imagine any pianist wanting to perform this except at a contemporary music festival. The cello concerto, commissioned by he BBC for the Proms and revised in 2013, is much more substantial, the first movement ending with a loud huge tam-tam and slowly fades away. the final movement also ends softly. Wu Wei is a master of the ancient Chinese sheng, a mouth-blown reed instrument with vertical pipes. Chin wrote this concerto for her, and the title "Su" is derived from Egyptian mythology referring to "symphony of the air." As the CD notes indicate, in the hands of a virtuoso player, the sheng produces "unprecedented sounds." This is a CD for the adventurous and we may be sure that the performances are just what the composer intended.
American composer Harry Partch (1901-1974) always was on the cutting edge of contemporary music, working with microtonal scales writing for unusual instruments that didn't exist—so he created them. The result was a type of sound alien to many listeners, but he had his dedicated followers. His first works were small-scale, but soon he wrote for larger groups and expected the performers to sing, dance, and speak as well as play their instruments. This Bridge release offers Castor & Pollux (A Dance for he Twin Rhythms of Gemini), Ring Around the Moon (A Dance Fantasm, for Here and Now), and Even Wild Horses (Dance Music for an Absent Drama). These were recorded June 9, 2013 in Redcat Theater in Disney Hall,Los Angeles. There are very complete and intricate program notes for each work, and the CD also includes the composer's live broadcast comments at the 1973 premiere of Even Wild Horses. An intriguing disk, for the adventurous.
R.E.B. (September 2014)