BAX: Three Northern Ballads. Nympholept. Red Autumn. The Happy Forest. Into the Twilight.
BBC Philharmonic Orch/Vernon Handley, cond.
CHANDOS CHAN 10446 (F) TT: 76:44
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KORNGOLD: Suite from The Sea Hawk
BBC Philharmonic Orch; Manchester Chamber Choir/Rumon Gamba, cond.
CHANDOS CHAN 10438 (F) TT: 76:57
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D'INDY: Jour d'été la montagne, Op. 61. La Foret enchantée, Op. 8. Souvenirs, Op. 62.
Iceland Symphony Orch/Rumon Gamba, cond.
CHANDOS CHAN 10464 (F) TT: 63:25
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ANDERSON: Woodbury Fanfare. A Harvard Festival. Forgotten Dreams. Whistling Kettle. Horse and Buggy. The Waltzing Cat. Home Stretch. The Girl in Satin. March Of The Two Left Feet. Waltz Around The Scale. Lullaby of the Drums. Jazz Legato. Jazz Pizzicato. Song of the Bells. Song of Jupiter. Suite of Carols for String Orchestra.
Alistair Young, piano; David McCallum, trumpet; BBC Concert Orch/Leonard Slatkin, cond.
NAXOS 8.559356 (B) TT: 54:51
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BOYER: Celebration Overture. Silver Fanfare. Tchaikovsky 6.1. TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathetique."
Moravian Philharmonic Orch/Lawrence Golan, cond.
ALBANY TROY 1027 (F) TT: 61:03
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For many years Sir Arnold Bax was best-known to collectors for his richly-scored symphonic poem Tintagel, primarily through the superb recordings by Barbirolli and Boult. That situation changed drastically about two decades ago, fortunately. Although Vernon Handley, an ideal conductor of Bax, already has recorded much of the composer's music for Chandos, he is re-recording much of it. A 5 disk set features all seven of Bax's symphonies in definitive performances. This is Volume II of "tone poems," a generous disk (76:44) including such treasures as the two "nature poems" The Happy Forest and Nympholept. Also we have the premiere recording of Red Autumn, which began life as a brief (5:03) piano piece. The Sir Arnold Bax Trust commissioned Graham Parlett to make this orchestration, and it is a worthy addition to the Bax discography. Performances could not be bettered, and the Chandos sound is state-of-the art.

In 1972, Charles Gerhardt and the National Symphony Orchestra's LP The Sea Hawk created a sensation in the record world. It featured a suite of music Erich Wolfgang Korngold composed for the film, as well as excerpts from nine other Korngold film scores in spectacular performances stunningly recorded by the Gerhardt-Wilkinson team. In 1989 Gerhardt re-edited the recording for CD adding about 20 minutes of music—thanks to ArkivMusic, this recording is again available—an essential disk in any collection of film music. The Sea Hawk is one of the most important of all film scores, setting the style for many movies to follow. Last year Naxos issued a 2-CD set containing the entire Sea Hawk score with the Moscow Symphony led by William T. Stromberg. Now we have this superb single-disk Chandos release that contains all of the highlights, divided into six parts played in the order as heard in the movie. The BBC Philharmonic plays magnificently and Gamba again impresses. Sonically, too, this is spectacular (I wonder why it wasn't issued on SACD?). Movie music lovers surely will wish to have this as well as the RCA Gerhardt recording that started it all—and, for completeness, the Stromberg as well. For more on the Gerhardt recording, check the Classic Film Score story on this site (FEATURE).

Ramon Gamba can be heard on another Chandos issue conducting the Iceland Symphony Orchestra which he has led since 2002. This is the first volume in a projected series devoted to orchestral works of Vincent d'Indy (1851-1931). This composer's music doesn't appear often in today's concert halls. The case was somewhat different years ago; from 1941 -1945 for RCA Pierre Monteux and the San Francisco Symphony recorded Symphony on a French Mountain Air (with pianist Maxim Shapiro), Fervaal, Symphony No. 2, and Istar—and all of these, again thanks to ArkivMusic, are still available. Souvenirs is one of the composer's most poignant scores, written in memory of d'Indy's wife Isabelle who died from brain cancer. Towards the end of this, one hears 12 repeated harp harmonics symbolizing the hour of midnight, the exact hour of Isabelle's death. The Iceland Symphony is not a large orchestra and cannot provide rich sonorities essential for d'Indy's rich-textured scores, but the Chandos sound is typically satisfying.

Several months ago on this site we mentioned a superb Naxos issue of music of Leroy Anderson with Leonard Slatkin and the BBC Concert Orchestra (REVIEW). Now we have Volume II in the series, and it is an equal delight. It features five world premiere recordings: Woodbury Fanfare, A Harvard Festival, Whistling Kettle, Waltz Around The Scale, and Lullaby of the Drums. The only dreary piece here is Anderson's boring arrangement of "Where'er you walk" from Handel's Semele. Brilliant, lively performances from Slatkin and the Brit orchestra, and Naxos' usual fine sound. One might question why playing time is only 54:51 - this is going to be a complete series of Anderson's music and surely a few more of the shorter works could have been included.

American conductor Lawrence Golan has started "The Point-One Series" of recordings which features commissioning and/or recording contemporary compositions musically linked to great masterpieces of the past. The purpose is to help create a body of "high quality contemporary works" whose chances for a viable future are increased by "the natural place within orchestral concert programming that they have." This new Albany/Troy CD contains but one short work in this project, Peter Boyer's Tchaikovsky 6.1. Although Boyer (born Feb. 10, 1970) has already established himself as a major American composer with his Ellis Island: The Dream of America (recorded for Naxos—8.559246), and his large-scale choral-orchestral work Dreaming a World, he is best-known for his work in movies and television. His teachers include John Corigliano and Elmer Bernstein, but two of his works sound like John Williams—and that is meant as a compliment. Celebration Overture, written in 1997, is indeed a "jubilant curtain-raiser." Silver Fanfare," the first movement of On Music's Wings composed for the Pacific Symphony in 2004, is equally festive. Very different, but equally imaginative, is Tchaikovsky 6.1 commissioned by conductor Lawrence to be performed immediately after a performance of the famous Tchaikovsky symphony. Lasting 7:31, is begins quietly (reminiscent of Rachmaninoff's Isle of the Dead), with the final page of the symphony "played backward" accompanied by shimmering celeste and high percussion. Finally the famous first movement theme is heard, and in the final section it appears again, heavily scored, a loud ending the composer describes as "triumphant." It's an intriguing experimental work, but I wouldn't want to hear it after a performance of the Pathétique. All of this music is played by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, an orchestra founded a half-century ago based in Olomouc, the historic capital of Moravia. Golan conducts all of this music very well indeed, and the orchestra is excellent. Recorded in June 2007 in Olomouc, the disk offers superb sonic quality, with the rich brass fanfares of the overture and fanfare vividly captured.

R.E.B. (May 2008)