Five Contrasts for Orchestra and other works/Zador

May 6, 2012

To those who have a good knowledge of soundtrack material the name Eugene Zador (1894-1977) is a familiar one as he spent 20+ years as the chief orchestrator (89 films) to fellow Hungarian Miklos Rozsa. Immigrating to the United States like Waxman, Korngold, and other Europeans he seemed to have found an excellent relationship with Miklos. Unlike Hugo Friedhofer, another famous orchestrator for Korngold and Steiner, he did little original soundtrack composing but did spend time on classical works and he composed some excellent material, relatively unknown until this new release from Naxos, champion of the little known composers. Hopefully this release will alleviate the situation.

Aria and Allegro for Strings and Brass got its premiere in Los Angeles in 1967 and was well received. A couple of years later performances by the Utah Symphony/Abravanel enforced the popularity of this fine example of neo-classical composition as called it novel among other adjectives. The first movement features a horn fanfare which is nicely counterpointed by the strings. A somewhat complex fugue follows in the second movement but still arranged and orchestrated to give the ear nice accessibility.

 

Five Contrasts for Orchestra was first performed in 1965 by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The opening “Introduction” is one that would certainly fit into a film noir situation and the sound makes one recall Rozsa. The horns quietly open the movement with a mellow fanfare theme ominously backed by lower register strings. It quickly changes to jagged staccato strings which call back and forth to one another. It continues with swirling strings and bold brass statements and ends quietly as it began. The second section called Autumn Pastorale has a delicate oriental flavor of flute and harp mixed with a yearning harmony from the strings. The mixture is truly contrasting in styles as east meets west. Phantasy, the third movement, begins with first dissonant type piano chords followed by a solo trumpet which gives way to distorted fanfare from the brass. This dance is a mocking one of the dead. The Scherzo is full of spirit and Zador has fun with the accordion and bassoon. The finale is a fugue filled with melodies and counterpoint and a fitting end to this wonderful study in styles.

A Children’s Symphony is written in a traditional four movement style it was first performed in New Orleans in 1941 and begins with a very classical style with the strings evoking a happy and uplifting mood well supported by woodwinds and brass. It leads to more peace and serenity with the clarinet offering a melody backed by a hint of the orient from the flutes and woodwinds. The middle section offers some tension and turmoil but in the end the melody from the beginning returns. Another great example of an easy accessible movement is the march beat from a single snare drum with a solo trumpet leading the orchestra with a melody and response being given back by different orchestral combinations. There is a laughing playful section with the tuba and bassoon calling to each other. The movement ends as it began. “The Farm” takes one through a day on the farm. Zador uses the public domain tune It’s Raining, It’s Pouring while we hear geese, cows, and chickens all to an Americana scene reminding one of Copland. He ends the work by returning the prelude of the opening movement for closing. Overall this is a very nice introduction to classical music for children.

Hungarian Capriccio got its first performance in 1935 in Budapest and offers a free moving piece that the listener doesn’t know which direction it’s going to turn. Beginning as a symphonic movement it is quickly off course with swirling strings, brass, and woodwinds offering multiple motifs and tempos.

Csardas Rhapsody was composed in 1939 and performed in New York the following year. The clarinet begins with a slinky introduction offering a sharp contrast between it and the harp. The dance turns into a playful cheery situation similar to his “Children’s Symphony.” It ends with a wonderful gypsy dance which becomes quite frantic ending with climaxes!

While the hours of Rozsa listening has made me quite aware of  Zador, this CD furthers enhances my  opinion of how talented an orchestrator he had. Mariusz Smolij conducts the Budapest Symphony in a spirited performance. It sounds like their quite familiar with his material. Take a chance and you won’t be disappointed.

Track Listing:

Aria and Allegro for Strings and Brass:

1… Aria (Andantino) (3:14)

2… Allegro (7:21)

Five Contrasts for Orchestra

3… Introduction (3:26)

4… Autumn Pastorale (3:59)

5… Phantasy (3:50)

6… Scherzo rustico (3:58)

7… Finale: Fugue (4:31)

A Children’s Symphony

8… Allegro moderato (con spirit) (3:17)

9… Fairy Tale (4:09)

10.Scherzo militaire (2:44)

11. The Farm (6:32)

12. Hungarian Capriccio (9:41)

13. Csaridas Rhapsody (9:20)

Total Time is 66:49

Naxos 8.572548

 

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