GILLIS: Star-Spangled Symphony. Amarillo—A Symphonic Celebration. A Dance Symphony (Symphony No. 8).
Sinfonia Varsovia/Ian Hobson, cond.
ALBANY TROY 618 (F) (DDD) TT: 66:32

VERDI: Sinfonia in C. Variations for Piano and Orchestra on "Caro suono lusinghiero." La forza del destino—Prelude. Adagio for trumpet and orchestra. Aida—Sinfonia. Canto di Virginia (Giacomo Mori): Variations for oboe and orchestra. Otello—Prelude. I lombardi alla primacrociata—Prelude Act III. Simon Boccanegra—Prelude. Capriccio for bassoon and orchestra.
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano; Gianluigi Petrarulo, trumpet; Alessandro Potenza, oboe;l Luca Santaniello, violin; Andrea Magnani, bassoon; Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
DECCA B0001909 (F) (DDD) TT: 80:48

TCHAIKOVSKY: Manfred Symphony, Op. 58 (ed. Jordania). Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33.
Dong-oo Lee, cello; Russian Federal Orch/Vakhtang Jordania, cond.
ANGELOK CD9911 (M) (DDD) TT: 67:00

GLAZUNOV: Triumphal March, Op. 40. Serenade No. 1, Op. 7. Overture No. 1 on Three Greek Themes, Op. 3. Serenade No. 2, Op. 11. Overture No. 2 on Three Greek Themes, Op. 6. Chopiniana, Op. 46.
Moscow Symphony Orch/Vladimir Ziva, cond.
NAXOS 8555048 (B) (DDD) TT: 70:33

Some months ago we reviewed a splendid Albany Troy issue of orchestral works of Don Gillis (see REVIEW).Now the label has another delightful CD of music of this American composer including world premiere recordings of Star-Spangled Symphony and Amarillo—A Symphonic Celebration. The former offers four "portraits of America" during World War II and years immediately afterward: Production Line, Prayer and Hymn for a Solemn Occasion, Bobby Socks and —Fourth of July
Celebration. Amarillo
was commissioned by the Amarillo chamber of commerce to commemorate the 75th anniversary of that city where it was premiered by the local orchestra in October 1962. The music "traces the development of the city's development from a frontier settlement to a space age city," an 18-minute suite that opens with a bright motif spelling out "Am-a-ril-lo Texas" and a hymn tune in memory of the pioneers who built the land, and ends with the present time with skyscrapers and jets. A Dance Symphony is considered to be the composer's Eighth Symphony, but it really is a 20-minute suite with four movements: Juke Box Jive, Deep Blues, Waltz (of sorts), and Low Down Hoe-Down. Gillis' sense of humor is always apparent in this highly energetic music which often is reminiscent of Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) who was writing light orchestral music at the same time. The Polish orchestra Sinfonia Varsovia has been around since 1972 and has received considerable accolades for their recordings and concerts. They are totally at home in this very American-sounding music under the direction of Ian Hobson, who has a highly successful career both as a pianist and conductor. Sonic quality is up to Albany/Troy usual standards.

Vakhtang Jordania and the Russian Federal Orchestra have a new Tchaikovsky CD featuring the Manfred Symphony identified here as being edited by the conductor—but there's no explanation of just what this "editing" consists of. It seems all Jordania did was drastically cut the last movement; there is precedent for this. Toscanini, in addition to many smaller changes in orchestration throughout the work, cut 118 bars from the finale. Jordania seems to use most of the same cuts, eliminating entirely the climax of the epilogue scored for harmonium by the composer—a strange choice for a composer who relishes big orchestral sound. Many conductors, including Toscanini, use an organ at this point. Tchaikovsky's massive "symphony" sounds incomplete without this interlude. Jordania ends the movement loudly, the same way the first movement closes—dramatic indeed, but not what Tchaikovsky wrote. Dong-oo Lee has been recognized as one of the finest artists to come from Korea. He has won many prestigious prizes and gives a sterling account of Tchaikovsky's Variations; this would be the only reason to acquire this CD. The recorded sound is superb and wide-range.

"Verdi Discoveries" and "four world premieres" suggest a CD of great interest, but the producers have stretched many points. The alternate Aida prelude is hardly a discovery, and even though some of the works on this disk are premiere recordings generally they are of interest only to those who must have everything the composer wrote—and didn't write. Authorship of the Otello prelude is highly suspect, the piano variations originally were for solo piano; the orchestral "score" has been recreated. All very minor Verdi indeed, beautifully played and recorded with Decca's usual expertise—with very generous playing time—one of longest (80:48) CDs I've ever encountered.

Naxos' CD offers some lesser-known works of Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936). Glazunov has written some magnificent music, particularly the ballets Raymonda and The Seasons. Here he is in a considerably less inspired frame in this collection of miniatures. Of greatest interest are the two overtures on Greek themes, the first one of which was a favorite of Dimitri Mitropoulos who recorded it with the Minneapolis Symphony (available on the Maestro History label). Chopiniana, premiered in 1893 with Glazunov's friend Rimsky-Korsakov conducting, is his rather prosaic orchestration of Chopin's Polonaise in A, Op. 40, Nocturne in F, Op. 12 No. 1, Mazurka in C# minor, Op. 50 No. 3, and Tarantelle in A flat, Op. 43. Triumphal March, written in 1892 for the Chicago Exhibition, here presented minus the optional chorus, is based on the Philadelphia camp-meeting song John Brown's Body. The ten-minute march is appropriately bombastic, in contrast to the two gentle serenades. Fine performances from Ziva and the Moscow SO, excellent sound as well. At budget price, of considerable interest.

R.E.B. (December 2003)