SEGERSTAM: Symphony No. 81 "After Eighty..." (2002). Symphony No.
162 "Doubling the Number for Bergen!: (2006). Symphony No. 181 "Names
itself when played..." = (raising the number with 100 for Bergen)" (2007)
JEVTIC: Spring Dance for Horn and String Orchestra. ARNOLD: Fantasy
for Horn. TURNER: Sonata for Horn and Strings. RISTORI: Concerto in A
minor for Horn and Orchestra. PLOG: Nocturne for Horn and Strings. KOETSIER:
Concertino for Horn and String Orchestra
EASDALE: Ballet from The Red Shoes. Suites from Kew Gardens,
Black Narcissus, Adventure On!, Gone to Earth, Prelude and March
from The Battle of the River Plate.
Finnish conductor Leif Segerstam (b. 1944) has an extraordinary career both as a conductor and composer. With his imposing figure and burly, jolly countenance he could easily pass for either Santa Claus or Brahms. Segerstam has recorded profusely including idiosyncratic performances of all of the symphonies of Mahler, Sibelius and Nielsen, as well as numerous contemporary works. Segerstam has composed about 250 "symphonies," some of which are very brief. His scores often leave a great deal of freedom for performers, and he also has a great sense of humor. He once said, "My symphonies are sperm. There is strength in numbers. Some will survive to take evolution forward." (Segerstam is the father of five children. and is now separated from his second wife).. His later symphonies are meant to be performed without conductor "to release the latent creativity in orchestral musicians." This intriguing CD offers the three symphonies listed above. Symphony No. 81 is sub-titled "After Eighty," and No. 162 is double No. 81. Symphony No. 181 adds 100 for Bergen. These are world premiere live performances, No. 81 recorded in 2003, the others in 2008. The music is fascinating indeed, often with huge masses of sound rather like Scriabin on steroids. It does seem odd there is no conductor. And how are they rehearsed?—who decides tempo, volume, etc? And it would seem that each performance would be different. At any rate, these "symphonies" are fascinating to hear, and they have been very well recorded.
For her first recording for DGG, violinist Lisa Batiashvili has yet another intriguing, varied program in spectacular performances. The featured work is Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 recorded in May 2010 in Munich with the Bavarian Radio Symphony directed by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Batiashvili's previously issued recording of the Beethoven concerto was coupled with Miniatures by Tsintsadze, the Sibelius concerto was coupled with Lindberg's violin concerto (REVIEW). On this latest CD, called Echoes of Time - and Home, she supplements the Shostakovich with her father's arrangement of a Shostakovich waltz, Pärt's Mirror in the Mirror and Rachmaninnoff's Vocalise (both with pianist Hélène Grimaud, and an evocative work by Georgian composer Giyha Kanchei. This is called V & V, an 11-minute piece scored for solo violin, string orchestra and taped voice. Although not identified in CD notes, the voice is that of Georgian pop singer "Mr. H. Gonashvili" who died in an accident in 1988. The few times it is heard, it is a quiet vocalise sounding rather like a theremin. This is a fascinating disc in every way, with state-of-the-art recorded sound.
Polish horn virtuoso Zbigniew Zuk (b. 1955) has held the position of principal horn with a number of orchestras and given many concerts as well. His spectacular playing can be heard on this unusual CD that contains many relatively unknown works. These are delightful display pieces, particularly the two concertos and Summer Dances. Kerry Turner's Sonata for Horn and Strings is another worthy piece; recently on this site S.G.S. reviewed a CD of this American composer's music (REVIEW). Zuk tosses off all of this music with the greatest of ease, and his beautiful sound as well as that of the superb Polish Radio Orchestra, have been captured with uncommon clarity in a resonant acoustic. Highly recommended!
British composer Brian Easdale (1909-1995) wrote three operas: Rapunzel (1927), The Corn King (1935), and The Sleeping Children (1951), as well as several orchestral works, but all are totally neglected today. However, Easdale had a flourishing career as a composer of film music, particularlyr his score for 1948 film The Red Shoes for which he received an Academy Award for Best Original Music Score. There were two early recordings, by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Muir Mathieson, the other by the St. Louis Symphony under Vladimir Golschmann, both long out-of-print. Now we have this spectacular new recording of this brief fascinating ballet, with Rumon Gamba and the BBC Wales Orchestra, complete with the brief important ondes martenot solos. Gamba is a major force in recordings of English music; his credits include extraordinary performances of overtures, film music and three symphonies of Malcolm Arnold. These suites from Easdale's scores for five films are welcome definitive additions to the catalog. The Chandos sound could not bettered—for audiophiles this is display material—too bad it wasn't done in surround!
Danish composer August Enna (1859-1939) is almost forgotten today, and for good reason. He was fascinated by the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (1895-1875) and composed more than 20 operas and operettas, mostly based on Andersen's tales, including The Little Match Girl which initially was quite popular. The cpo label is doing their best for Enna. Already they have issued the operas Heisse Liebe, The Little Match Girl and The Shepherdess and the Chimney-Sweep. Now we have two major orchestral works, the Hans Christian Andersen Overture, Symphonic Pictures "Fairy Tale," (although not based on any specified stories), and Symphony No. 2 in E. I found all of this rather tedious, prosaic listening. Not much happens, even in the scherzo movements of each major work. Performances are excellent, as is the sound.
R.E.B. (March 2011)