July 22, 2012
Dmitry Kabalevsky (1904-1987), a household musical name in Russia but outside his country he pretty much identified with The Comedians (1940) a suite he created based on a children’s play he wrote music for. Within the suite is a Gavotte (no. 1), included as an audio clip Kabalevsky – 12 – comedians gavotte that has become something of a standard for pops orchestras along the same lines as the Sabre Dance of Khachaturian, from his Gayane ballet. Outside of this particular work he has never achieved the popularity of Prokofiev or Shostakovich also contemporary 20th century Russian composers. Hopefully this new CD offering from Delos in their continuing project of reissues from the defunct Russian Disc label will introduce you to an extremely accessible composer.
Kabalevsky was one of the founding members of the Union of Soviet Members and was considered an ideal example of what a communist party composer should be. While Shostakovich wasn’t afraid to experiment and we certainly are aware of what he accomplished it led to serious consequences and very nearly his life at one point. Dmitry played it pretty much along party lines filling his music with Russian folk tunes and emphasizing melodic lines and orchestrations like Tchaikovsky and he received nothing but praise from the party.
Kabalevsky was born to a mathematician an interest he had as well as poetry and painting. Once he began the study of the piano and joined the Moscow Conservatory against his mathematical father’s desires his fate was sealed by one of his professors Myaskovsky another somewhat known composer and he became a professor in 1932. His body of work includes many areas of music which include choral, silent film, music for children, symphonies, concertos, chamber, and programmatic material like you’ll hear on this CD.
“Overture Pathetique,” Op. 64 (1960) begins with an upbeat melody filled with enthusiasm and hope from the woodwinds which is the basis for the entire work. There is no complicated harmony only each orchestral section offering this tune which is brought to a rousing conclusion.
“The Spring,” Op. 65 (1960) begins as one might think the very light and spritely flute which introduces the theme. Oboe and woodwinds are allowed to further develop the theme with strings providing the counterpoint. The bassoon is an important part of this equation as it offers its unique sound and flavor to the short tone poem.
“Overture to the Opera Colas Breugon,” Op. 24 (1938) begins upbeat with a vivacious fun melody that is offered from the entire orchestra with emphasis placed on the brass. It will instantly put you in good spirits and offers a snappy bright conclusion.
“The Comedians,” Op. 26 (1940) opens with a short prologue that will remind you of Shostakovich with the opening fanfare of brass slightly askew which leads into his well known gavotte, a melody that you’ll remember instantly. The remaining tracks include a Prokofiev style march, a somber funeral procession, valse, another gavotte, scherzo, and an epilogue which restates the prologue. The fifteen or so minutes will pass quickly as each movement is a separate and unique miniature. The work is definitely a fun listen.
The opening selection “Romeo and Juliet,” Op. 56 subtitled musical drawings after Shakespeare is the longest at 40 minutes and is a mixture of somber melodramatic material as well as fun and gaiety. The tone poem offers a fine example of the tonal colors and orchestration that Dmitry is capable of. While one can hear the Tchaikovsky it still has its own unique flavor. Again each section is a separate miniature that is capable of standing alone.
As an avid classical listener I found this material to be bright and extremely accessible. The Byelorrussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra perform like it was quite familiar with the material. Anatoly Lapunov seems to have chosen a comfortable pace that I found quite acceptable. The recording is clear and crisp with good separation and tonal range. I’m enjoying the reissue project from Delos and look forward to more in the future.
Delos DRD 2017
Anatoly Lapunov conducts Byelorussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra
Romeo and Juliet, Op. 56
1… Introduction (Enmity and Love) 4:40
2… Morning in Verona (2:01)
3… Preparation for the Ball (1:35)
4… Procession of the Guests (3:46)
5… Merry Dance (1:33)
6… Lyric Dance (5:45)
7… In Friar Laurence’s Cell (5:16)
8… Scene in the Square (3:23)
9… Romeo and Juliet (3:35)
10. Finale (Death and Reconciliation) (9:30)
The Comedians Op. 26
11. Prologue (0:59)
12. Gavotte (1:30)
13. March (1:15)
14. Valse (1:24)
15. Pantomime (2:15)
16. Intermezzo (0:49)
17. Lyric Scene (1:29)
18. Gavotte (2:13)
19. Scherzo (1:49)
20. Epilogue (2:08)
21. Overture Pathetique, Op. 64 (4:44)
22. Spring, Op. 65 (6:26)
23. Overture to the Opera Colas Breugnon (5:13)
Total Time is 73:47
July 10, 2012
If there is a single word that can be used to describe Andre Previn it would have to be versatility. Born in Germany and rumored to be distantly related to Gustav Mahler like Waxman, Steiner, and Korngold he emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1939 to escape Hitler and Nazi Germany. His great-uncle was Charles Previn who was musical director of Universal Studio for many years. One can easily see how working for Hollywood became a natural for him which he did for over 20 years winning four Oscars in the process. In addition he is a fine pianist classical, pop, easy listening, and jazz. In 1968 he walked away from Hollywood to become a world known conductor of major orchestras of the world. His discography of material approaches Mozart in terms of sheer numbers. Truly an icon in the world of music for the tremendous contribution he has made.
The score to the comedy starring Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine is going to sound exactly what you think if you’re familiar with this era and style of Andre Previn. There is nothing special or groundbreaking just nice solid melodies and arrangements. The love theme is one you’ll remember upon repeated listens as it is played on several tracks sometimes in different orchestrations and styles. The “Main Title” is a fun fast paced brassy theme which sets the stage for the type of film you’re going to see. It ends with a dirge like theme from the bassoon which is carried over into the “Dead Colonel,” a prelude to a bluesy theme with sax and trombone exchanging solos. This is one of the two mono tracks in this release. “Earring” is a nice prelude which leads to a revisit of the main theme followed by a subtle reference to the love theme. “Katie’s Story” is a full version of the love theme which changes to comical underscore followed by a return to the main title. “Swanky Lunch” is a very romantic version of the love theme featuring first sax and then muted trombone. This is a very danceable and easy listening track. Elegance is the word to describe “Fur Salon” as a new theme in waltz tempo is introduced. “Funeral” is a brief chamber style track extremely classical in nature. “Martinique” is another new theme featuring a combo including piano, guitar, vibes, bass and percussion. Another easy listening track. “Martinique #2” is a different orchestration of the love theme using a clarinet instead of sax. “Cocktail Piano” is a piano bar version of the love theme.
If I could afford to have every Previn release in my collection I would and this one is no exception. This is a limited edition of 1000 units so it is better to act sooner than later. The remastering is up to the high standards of Kritzerland. As noted in the review tracks 2 and 21 are mono.
July 8, 2012
You can well ask the question why this tone poem took 54 years to indirectly receive its world premier. I say indirectly because much of the material was used in the soundtrack by Sainton the composer of the (1956) version of Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck and directed by John Huston. His one and only soundtrack, it became a bright spot in a film that many feel was a disappointment. Quoting Ray Bradbury, who wrote the screenplay and a book Green Shadows, White Whale on his collaboration with Huston, “Moby Dick, the film is Melville, and Sainton is both Melville and Moby Dick.” This comes from a man who initially tried to sell Huston on the Moby Dick music written by Herrmann!
The Island was written in 1939 while Sainton was a viola player with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and it was dedicated to trumpet player Ernest Hall also a member of the orchestra. The opening trumpet solo, a majestic fanfare, had to have been written with Hall in mind. The trumpet solo is a prelude to the first theme a delicate one with swirling strings complemented by the trumpet. A harp enhances the orchestration along with an oboe playing the theme with a counterpoint melody. An all too brief Irish melody gives way again to the swirling strings. This is a beautiful romantic section depicting the beauty and calm of the sea. The nature of the ocean is also one of turmoil and Sainton includes a section beginning with ominous tones followed by a disturbing section featuring growling brass and percussion. Dissonance is the order of the day. It passes and the work ends with a coda that returns to the main theme once again. One can certainly hear the strong influences of Bax, Delius, Moeran, and Debussy present in the seventeen minute work.
The Island certainly has to take its place among the other quality tone poems written about the sea. It is quite tonal with good melodies, structure, and excellent orchestration. There is nice recording/miking separation between the brass and strings where the ear can easily hear both sections easily without straining. Include in the mix the always present percussion, again properly miked, and you have a great recording. I’m really quite surprised that this work hasn’t received more attention than this one recording. Matthias Bamert, conductor and champion of Sainton, Philharmonia Orchestra, and Chandos should all be commended on this one. This would be a perfect companion purchase to the person who has or is interested in the Marco Polo (8.225050) complete film score recording by Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony orchestra. Both recordings can be found for under $10.00. I’ve included two audio clips for you to compare Moby Dick and The Island.
Patrick Hadley (1899-1973), friend and student of Vaughan Williams, nine years earlier wrote a four movement symphonic ballad The Trees So High. One of his early works revolves around the main melody as all three movements like brooks flow into a stream which is the final movement. It is hear that we hear a Capella sung by David Wilson-Johnson and the youth work somewhat comes together. While Hadley made a nice attempt and there are some lovely passages that depict the English countryside there is a lack of cohesiveness and sections appear out of place. Written in ‘A’ minor it is overall tragic. On first listen I found it a very difficult one but further visits to it gave me some idea of what Patrick was attempting to do.
1… The Island (17:00)
The Trees so High-Symphonic Ballad in A minor
2… Adagio (molto) moderato (11:11)
3… Andante tranquillo
4… Vivace (5:06)
5… Adagio (13:05)
Total Time is 51:39
David Wilson-Johnson Baritone
Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus David Hill, Chorus Master
Matthias Bamert Conductor