Monday, October 6, 2014

***Modern Masters III - Dello Joio - Alan Hovhaness - Arnold Rosner - The Philharmonia Orchestra - David Amos***

I wanted this disc to be my very first post on this blog however I couldn't locate either of my 2 copies of it. This disc is in my "top 5" recordings-of all time. It is also of profound significance for me, as it is the reason, or pathway if you will, to my long-term friendship with composer Arnold Rosner. Hard to find even back in 1991, I was looking for this disc for Hovhaness's "Shepherd of Israel", a magnificent opus for String Orchestra, Cantor, and Flute. I had never heard of Rosner before, and whilst I was already in complete bliss by the time (both) Hovhaness works had ended, it was Rosner's "Responses, Hosanna, and Fugue" that "changed" me. I was simply blown away, speechless...this was music of the gods I thought, music that sounded *exactly* how I wanted music to sound, music that affected me precisely how I wanted music to affect me, and on every possible level move me and provide the highest level of emotional impact. I could barely sit still while experiencing this music, I found myself swaying, often with my eyes closed or sitting still whilst holding my head, the music pulsing thru my veins. Soon after I bought every Rosner recording available, which was perhaps 4-5 relatively unknown discs, to even the most seasoned listener. I was compelled to contact the composer, and managed to find a simple site that listed his works, and also listed "contact" info on the works, an email address. So I wrote an email, for over an hour, at least three pages worth. To my delight it was Rosner's email (I though it might just go to a publisher, thus my heart-spilling email to be left in vain). He wrote back and the rest is history as they say. It's a fascinating story imo but I wont bore you all with the details!

"Responses, Hosanna, and Fugue" is for String Orchestra, String Quartet and Harp. The first movement will recall for the listener RVW's "Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis", however in Rosner's entirely unique voice; stylistically there are similarities, which as I mentioned above falls in the category of exactly how I wish music to sound. The second movement has a lively dance-like theme, with unexpected twists and turns along the way. The third movement is a stately fugue, which ends quietly, allowing this listener to "recover" from all the beauty ;) 

Here is a paragraph by Rosner himself, taken from the liner notes of the disc:

Responses, Hosanna, and Fugue was written in 1977 and is my only work purely for string orchestra. Who among us is not moved by responsorial singing, in the mosque, the synagogue, a tribal open field, or innumerable denominations of churches? Classical works (by Victoria, among others) have made telling use of the idea; in the first movement of my work, I have applied it to an instrumental setting. Toward this end a string quartet is separated from the main orchestra, the harp freely joining either group, and we hear any number of dialogues and overlaps. For the rest, the quartet players rejoin their colleagues, although little ensembles (such as three violas and harp) may form and dissolve along the way.

The middle movement should sound rather jaunty and is in 5/4 time, with additional wrinkles and irregularities. The modal theme is subjected to several manipulations, some contrapuntally motivated. One variant diverges from the 5-meter and may recall folk tunes. No particular song was consciously used; my sub-conscious pleads nolo contendere.

The Fugue is not especially rigorous after the imitative opening. The main subject recurs often, but much of the material is harmonically (or dramatically) driven. The content is a bit plaintive, but in the end all urgency is relieved, and the close may recall the attitude of the first movement. (Notes by Arnold Rosner)

Dello Joio's Pulitzer award winning "Meditations on Ecclesiastes" is written in densely drenched harmonies twisted through the spectrum by Bergian ecstasy. This is of such intensity that it tips over into anguish. It is not music of Oriental inclination (not Hovhaness; not Bloch) rather do we veer reflectively between Finzi-Barber and Shostakovich's writing for strings. The Spumante movement revels in the debonair flush of Britten's Simple Symphony. However this is overwhelmingly a work of inwardness and brooding and the effect is brilliantly carried off by the Philharmonia aided by the open-minded engagement of David Amos and the solo 'voices' of Hugh Bean (remember his Lark Ascending with Boult and his brilliant broadcast Bax Violin Concerto) and the solo cello of David Jones. 

Hovhaness's "Psalm and Fugue" is a gorgeous work for Strings, which Hovhaness composed in 1940 in a coffee shop in Boston. The work was actually written "for" the composer himself, to help him stay calm and centered during a time of personal crisis. This is a spine-tingling modal work, here speaks a composer utterly in thrall to tonality -it's a bit like exotic Vaughan Williams branching out from Flos Campi via chant and descanting melisma.

Hovhaness's "Shepherd of Israel" is entirely entrancing and authentically a mystical experience. 
It was dedicated to the founding of the State of Israel. It's sonorities alternate between the improvisatory sounds of a shepherd's pipe (flute) and the cantillation of a synagogue cantor. Also heard is AH's trademark pizzicato adding to the mystery. All these sounds are interlaced with lush string sonorities utilizing fugal subjects and contrapuntal technique. A small masterpiece. 

Please enjoy. *More than ever I would appreciate feedback on this disc*


cjvinthechair said...

Some really unusual pieces here - you know, it's really like Christmas every day now, with a few lovely blog sites uploading so many wonders that it's a rare day indeed when something doesn't scream 'download me !'
Terrific, thanks !

Beaumarchais said...

Amigo no hay problema, igual te digo cuando quieras postear otra cosa.


Tzadik said...

Hola Beau, nice to get the reply from you. I just found it a coincidence that we both had Sandor Veress of all conmposers on our minds :) -Are you familiar with this disc, Dello Joio/Hovhaness/Rosner: Modern Masters III? Saludos!!

Hola Beau, bueno para conseguir la contestación de usted. Acabo de encontrar una coincidencia que ambos teníamos Sandor Veress de todos conmposers en nuestras mentes :) -¿Estás familiarizados con este disco, Dello Joio / Hovhaness / Rosner: Modern Masters III? Saludos !!

Tzadik said...

Hey cjv, I'm happy you refer to it as Christmas ;) It's funny, I always checked all the best blogs evey day, and now I find myself just checking/posting on my own! I gotta catch up myself, I'm far from alone out there when it comes to being a big collector..
-Oh do tell me what you think once you listen, esp the Rosner..
Best, Tz

denny said...

This probably isn't the comment you meant, but when you write about Mr. Rosner, it is always very moving. I wish it could be in the liner notes of a beautiful rendition of his work.

theblueamos said...

Hi TZ! I will listen to it tomorrow and promise to let you know.What I was blown away with was the Kalinnikov symphpnies 1& 2/All the best in the meantime/

Vivelo said...

Dear Tzadik: Dello Joio and Hovhaness are composers I'm always looking for, and they are so rare! I get all music for wind ensemble I can find, so rare in blogs too...I'm glad when I find this kind of composer, even not played by wind bands. Thank you so much. About Rosner, sorry, he's new for me and I still don't have an opinion about him...greetings from Brazil.

Anonymous said...

could you name the rest of your top five recordings of all time? cheers!


cjvinthechair said...

Listened to the Dello Joio, as his piece was the one I had no idea about at all before seeing the disc.
Like his work - the Harp concerto, Triumph of St. Joan symphony, & this Meditations is also very attractive.
Rosner is on as I write - think I'm going to like this fact, it's a great CD - much appreciated !

Tzadik said...

Hi Denny, what a very nice comment. Rosner's music means the world to me, as did the man himself, only more so. He was a dear friend and I loved him like a brother, or more precisely as a brilliant, fascinating human being who wrote music of the spheres yet Rosner was always down to earth. His soul, warmth and kindness was indescribable. -I like the cd notes idea; plus in his Symphony No. 4 I get "honorable mention" on the score, by way of a private joke we shared, he wrote it with a pen in the score after the fact, a particular melodic line.. I would love to see this symphony recorded! Kind regards, Tz

Tzadik said...

Hey t.b.a., I hope you enjoy the disc, I have a feeling you will do so greatly. -The Kalinnikov symphonies are among my favorites, they make such a wonderful discovery indeed! When I first heard them years ago I have to say I was floating on air!! -Tz

Tzadik said...

Hello Vivelo and thank you for your thoughts. I too love music for winds (might you love the symphonies of Sibelius like I do? His writing for winds especially within the symphonies is sublime). Dello Joio is a great composer imo however Hovhaness Is practically my favorite composer of all time. I will be posting a ton of AH's music, and when I get to it Dello Joio as well. Kind regards

Tzadik said...

Hi Mike...well that's a tough question, indeed I've been put on the spot ;) I have a million runners-up however I will say

1)Modern Masters III (this disc)

2)Hovhaness-Symphony No.2 etc. -Delos records, Gerard Schwartz, SSO (still the finest recording of Mysterious Mountain available)

3)Vaughan Williams- Fantasia on a Theme.., Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus etc. Maurice Abravanel, Utah Symphony Orch. -Vanguard Classics (I have never heard in all my years Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis played better than this!!)

4)Prokofiev- Classical Symphony, Overture on Hebrew Themes, Flute Concerto (trans. flute sonata), Sonata for Unaccompanied Violins in Unison, Scherzo for Four Bassoons. -Conifer Classics, very out of print disc

5)A tie- Either the complete String Quartets of Shostakovich (Fitzwilliam Quartet or Brooklyn) -or-
Schubert-String Quartet No. 15 in G, Tokyo String Quartet -RCA Victor Red Seal


Tzadik said...

cjv, tell me what you think of the rest (esp. Rosner) of the disc when you have had a good couple run-throughs! Btw yes Dello Joio is a wonderful composer. -Tz

Anonymous said...

I've been following your great blog and especially your quest to bring the world's attention to Arnold Rosner with great interest. He is a wonderful, sonorous, and all but forgotten composer who was shunned and exiled by the serialists of his day. I found his biography by Walter Simmons at particularly touching, not to mention his music. I really appreciate your notes on the music and your taste selection. Very unusual

Anonymous said...

Gracias por la música de Hovhaness,
(y por toda la otra),nos alegra visitar su blog,es una caja de sorpresas!
Que le vaya bien.
Un saludo!

FLAVIOLA said...

Hey TZ, It's my B-day in a few days and what better gift I know not than to visit you and your glorious shares! I always trust your views but I made the mistake of "listening " to this disc while doing chores. I could tell right away what I was missing & I will be still next time so I can give a better review. What a perfect blend of pieces. Rosner, yes! I love the nuances, the touching of a chord and deciding to go elsewhere but allowing the listener in on the journey.I have to re-listen!! Thanx

Tzadik said...

Hi anon and thank you for the thoughtful comments. I'm happy you are enjoying the blog and my notes :)
I know Walter Simmons but he wouldn't remember me, I met him but once at a Rosner concert held in NYC at Merkin Hall about 8 years ago. His bio is touching as penned by Mr. Simmons, although I can tell you that Rosner wasn't always entirely "pleased" with Simmon's reviews of his music. Tz

Tzadik said...

Hola Juanito y como siempre eres bienvenido :) Habrá mucho más Hovhaness venir. Un cordial saludo, Tz

Tzadik said...

Hi Flaviola, and Happy Birthday!! (any chance it's Oct 11? I have a family member with that birth date..) That's a very nice compliment, I have accomplished what I set out to do on here if you find my posts to be like gifts :-) How nice. Yes, do give a good listen, with your entire attention...and then do so again...and again, it's extremely rewarding music. Best, -Tz

vsense said...

Wonderful stuff, much appreciated.

Audentity said...

Glad to finally hear your favorite album. I like the Rosner the best, very beautiful. Hovahness Prelude & Fugue is also nice. Parts of the Dello Joio are excellent. Don't care much for the the Meditations on Ecclesiastes. Thank you for all the interesting music :)