Sunday, December 28, 2014

Modern Masters II - David Ward-Steinman, Concert No. 2 for Chamber Orch. - Paul Turok, Threnody - Norman Dello Joio, Lyric Fantasies for Viola & Strings - Henry Cowell, Hymn - Paul Creston, Partita for Flute, Violin, & String Orch. - City of London Sinfonia, David Amos

There are three volumes in the "Modern Masters" series, seriously enterprising releases by Harmonia mundi France. One of my favorite discs of all time, "Modern Masters III" (1991), I posted months ago, indeed it was my introduction to the music of my friend Arnold Rosner. That recording had an impact on me like no other, needless to say. All three volumes are worth having, and these discs were
extremely rare until Kleos decided to re-release them a few years ago (Volumes II and III exist, I don't recall if Kleos got around to Volume I, I believe the re-releasing was done in reverse order).

Conductor David Amos has focused on championing the music of America’s traditionalist composers of the twentieth century, and has recorded hundreds of compositions from this rich stream. These have included lesser-known works by Nicolas Flagello, Arnold Rosner, Paul Creston, Vincent Persichetti, Vittorio Giannini and Ernest Bloch among many others. He has been something of a jobbing nomad and has worked with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the London Symphony, the Israel Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic, the Polish Radio, and the Jerusalem Symphony. He is the founder and music director of the TICO Orchestra of San Diego. He began his musical studies in Mexico City, continuing at San Diego State University, before pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Indiana. In addition to conducting, he has hosted and produced a long-running radio series on contemporary music, and writes a regular music column for the San Diego Jewish Times. He is in frequent demand as a lecturer, guest conductor, and adjudicator in music competitions.

David Ward-Steinman's "Concerto No. 2 for Chamber Orchestra" was a Sherwood Hall, La Jolla commission and is very well crafted, busy and oft dervish-like, evidently written with affectionate obeisance to Stravinsky and "Pulcinella" in the outer movements, which are skitterish and great fun. The middle movement, marked "very slow" is a beauty, with nostalgic Americana in a Copland-esque vein. It is scored for string orchestra with percussion, and single woodwind and brass. "Every instrument is treated soloistically at one time or another, including the principle strings", according to the composer, "and the various choirs are themselves often independent and pitted one against the other-hence the title".  A great opener indeed..

Paul Turok has flown so far under the radar, you won't find even a Wikipedia entry on him. Turok’s sombre "Threnody" for String Orchestra Op. 54 is a short work that I think is pretty effective as a song of lament, and the musical language reminds me of another obscure composer, the Hungarian Odeon Partos-they could be musical twins it seems to me. "Threnody" was premiered in Seattle in January, 1980.

Norman Dello Joio's "Lyric Fantasies for Viola and Strings" is a ripely reflective discursively lyrical piece. The sound of the solo viola, accompanied by string sonorities which range between strong harmonic support and soft murmuring create the mood of the piece. The "Lyric Fantasies" are more than just a virtuoso work for viola and strings; aside from the melodic exchanges between the viola and the string ensemble, the writing has very varied and expressive moments. Indeed, as a complete entity, the Fantasies are a strong statement and a major contribution to the solo viola literature with orchestral accompaniment. Like much of Dello Joio this piece has depth and grows on you quickly. Quite an exciting and beautiful work I think.

Henry Cowell’s "Hymn for Strings" is concentrated, rounded, prayerfully invocational, serious and more 'Tallis-like' than the Dello Joio, with something of the weighty passion of Hovhaness’s ethereal string writing about it. Cowell composed a whole series of gorgeous stylistically like-minded works called "Hymn and Fuguing Tunes" which are lyrical, modal gems to my ears. I shall have to remember to post a Cowell disc on CPO that offers several pieces from the "Fuguing" series. 
The "Hymn" is both simple and gorgeous.

Paul Creston wrote his gorgeous and so very likable "Partita for Flute, Violin, and String Orchestra" Op. 12, in 1937. His indebtedness to Baroque music is reflected in the use of suite movements, concerto grosso musical texture, rhythmic ostinato, and long spun-out melodies. These musical principles, combined with modern compositional techniques, result in an engaging blend of old and new. This early work of Creston contains a freshness and vitality that would characterize his entire musical output. -Delos records did a great service in the 1990's releasing Paul Creston's symphonies and other works, as they did with Walter Piston, David Diamond (one of best Stateside 20th century composers, a favorite of mine, and ridiculously under-appreciated), Howard Hanson and others. 



Anonymous said...

gracias Tzadik por la tarantella de Creston y Turok(totalmente desconocido para mi ese composer,gracias) y aun más Gracias por el mp3 de Alan,mi sinfonista favorito de toda USA.Abrazos de Tapirman!!

Toon van Dijk said...

Many thanks and regards with best wishes for 2015 from The Netherlands.
Veel dank en groeten uit Nederland.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, the Cowell piece in particular. Why is so much great music never played by contemporary orchestras and classical music stations? Happy New Year.

theblueamos said...

Fantastic! thank you!!I don't know if you download from avax? but an interesting set has come up:Forbidden Not Forgotten: Suppressed Music From 1938-1945.All the very best.

Tzadik said...

Hola queridos Tapirman Dr., que siempre son bienvenidos por la música! Y Hovhaness ... como ustedes saben por ahora sigue siendo, más o menos mi compositor favorito también. Saludos!

Tzadik said...

Hallo Toon and I wish you all the best in 2015 as well friend. -TZ

Tzadik said...

Anon you are very welcome! Well....the music, no matter how wonderful it is, is likely to not get the recognition it deserves, quite often not until decades later, in some cases not until after the composer is long-gone (if they are extremely under the radar). Of course the #1 reason is money money money. Most orchestras will not take a chance with obscure (often enough the lesser-known works of better known composers go unplayed!) works by little known composers as the feeling is that the audience will not show; this is a sad refection on classical music's place in the world in the 21st century in many ways. One thing that has always been a dilemma for orchestras/concerts is the fact that most audiences still are 'senior citizens', or at best the 60 years of age and up club (I would guess at least 80% fall into this category), and usually they have conservative tastes-of course if the programming was more exciting that could slowly change the minds and tastes of "some" concert-goers. There have been many many failed attempts at getting a younger audience, especially later teens to 30;s, and even 40 somethings, although 20-30's would be the most important. The radio...well same idea, keep listeners by playing the 'standards'. Happily there are some adventurous stations-usually 'net, podcasts or smaller local radio stations. Many major classical radio stations have completely closed down, even in major cities like Helsinki, Finland (!) due to lack of funding. I would have to write for an hour to make things more clear..but you get the point. it's very depressing, as is the state of recorded music sales, an issue plaguing the classical recording industry for decades.."cds" are dying out slwly, or faster-plus online sales are decnt-but only decent. TZ

Tzadik said...

t.b.a. I know of avax but I have always assumed, without any rational reason-that avax is torrent only. I might be wrong, indeed it wouldn't hurt to browse around there! Torrent is fine i'm sure but i never really tried it (i'm oldschool that way, I always loved usenet-practically dead now for many years, although not entirely..although I barely ever got classical music off of any groups...I always had almost everything already.) however I have friends who acquire everything that way and for years now. TZ

Audentity said...

Thank you. As mentioned above, the Creston piece is delightful!