March 21, 2014
REFERENCE RECORDINGS RR-132
The Kansas City Symphony has released a new recording with their CD Company Reference Recordings, this being the fourth in recent years. The theme is 20th century and each of the works included represent three composers: Hindemeth, Prokofiev, and Bartok. They were written in 1943, 1926, and 1926 respectively. Both the works of Prokofiev and Bartok were determined to be detrimental to their countries while Hindemeth, who was German, had fled Nazi Germany to come to America and received a more positive welcoming, determining that his music was “degenerate art.”
Paul Hindemeth (1895-1963) was an extremely well rounded composer who played several instruments, wrote pieces that the amateur could perform, and was a recognized musicologist. His work Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber is divided into four parts “Allegro,” “Turandot: Scherzo,” “Andantino,” and “March.” The allegro offers an orchestration which includes the entire symphony to be involved with the ear catching oriental flavored melody. It has a background of harmony, complex brass passages, and a state of great activity going on. The scherzo was a tune which came from the Chinese published in 1735. It shows the neo baroque style in the fugato form. Hindemeth wrote for the trombone section which shined in playing the complex passages. In addition the percussion section is to be given a star for their performance making it sound very 20th century. The strings and wind section provide a break in the frantic pace of the work with a relaxing sense of peace and tranquility in the “Andantino.” That pace is quickly renewed in the final movement which is a rousing march filled with fanfares from the trumpets, horns, and trombones. It reminds me of passages like Bruckner’s 4th symphony. I’ve included the first movement of the work as an audio track which will allow you to further explore the work.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) took highlights from six parts of the Love For Three Oranges and created an overture in 1926 based on the comical and spoof of an opera that was commissioned by the Chicago Opera five years earlier. While the opera met with cool reviews and helped form a negative attitude toward the US from Prokofiev. Time has been kind to the suite especially the third part, the March which Hollywood took a liking to over the years. Its march has an infectious melody that I recall performing in school on many occasions. The Kansas City Symphony which is fast beginning to grow on me performs the suite with all of the necessary emotion. This is a must have for your collection if it has somehow avoided you.
Bela Bartok (1881-1945) wrote The Miraculous Mandarin and suffered a similar fate to the Prokofiev work as far as a government stance on it not being fit for the public. Again time has been kind to this work and it has been performed and recorded by many symphonies. It is considerably darker in color than the two previous works on this CD and is a nice contrast to the previous thirty six minutes you listened to. Bartok has a style that fits into the 20th century style of music and definitely has been a trendsetter. While many of his works have a distinct Hungarian style to them this work definitely leans toward the dissonant side with little melody and a patchwork style to it making it one that the listener will need to listen to several times before many of the ideas unfold. I especially enjoy the ending with the frantic playing of the string section melded with dissonant brass statements from the symphony.
Reference Recordings offer a little bit extra to the listener in terms of clarity, recording (Prof. Johnson), and a distinct separation of each of the individual sections that make up the orchestra. The extended dynamic range makes a difference and if you’re fortunate enough to have SACD CD unit you’ll even
more than from a regular CD player. This is a recording not to be missed. It can be purchased direct from www. Reference Recordings. I was impressed enough to request review copies of the other releases from the Kansas City Symphony. Look for them in the future.
Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber
1…. Allegro (4:10)
2…. Turandot: Scherzo (7:45)
3…. Andantino (4:14)
4…. March (4:30)
The Love for Three Oranges-Suite
5…. The Odd Fellows (3:00)
6…. Infernal Scene (3:54)
7…. March (1:43)
8…. Scherzo (1:25)
9…. Princess and the Princess (4:15)
10…. Flight (2:09)
Miraculous Mandarin- Suite
11. Suite (17:36)