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Gould: Symphony No 2; Harbison: Cello Concerto; Stucky, Gould / Albany Symphony

Release Date: 12/19/2003 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 605   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Morton GouldSteven Edward StuckyGabriel Ian GouldJohn Harbison
Performer:  Robert SheenaDavid Finckel
Conductor:  David Alan Miller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Albany Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Steven Stucky's Son et Lumière is one of those modern, anonymous-sounding "texture" pieces, but it's no less rewarding for that as Stucky writes for the orchestra with great flair and confidence and the piece delivers exactly what the title promises: interesting sounds featuring an enjoyable interplay of light and shade. Gabriel Ian Gould (no relation to Morton) is a young (b. 1974) composer whose Watercolors for English horn and orchestra is a sort of Swan of Tuonela for the New Millennium. If my preferences remain firmly with the old swan, this is still an attractive 12 minutes of pastels, the perfect contrast to Stucky's "in-your-face" opening. Soloist Robert Sheena plays well, but he's a bit too closely Read more recorded, occasionally sounding less like a swan and more like a duck.

But now comes the really hot stuff. John Harbison's Cello Concerto (1993) strikes me as one of his most successful instrumental works, largely on account of very colorful orchestration that features an "East meets West" assortment of gongs and tuned percussion. The result avoids the timbral dullness that afflicts many of Harbison's other works, as does the inventive solo part that cellist David Finckel (of Emerson String Quartet fame) plays with admirable relish. You can enjoy this repetition-friendly work at first hearing and return to it with increasing pleasure as your familiarity with its captivating sound world deepens.

The main event, Morton Gould's Symphony No. 2 "On Marching Tunes", will come as a shock to those who think that the subtitle, the composer's reputation as a musical populist, and the date of composition (1944) mean that we're going to be treated to some sort of nationalistic pot-boiler. Indeed, the opening Variations and zesty third-movement Quickstep offer plenty of evidence to support that notion. They are brilliant and tremendous fun. But the second movement, Bivouac, really is a tenderly nostalgic berceuse, and the long, slow finale, Memorial, carries the music into regions inhabited by the finale of Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony, which it strongly resembles in its grief-stricken emotional ambiance and quietly ambivalent "major-key" ending. In other words, the piece winds up being just the opposite of what the title leads us to expect, and I have no doubt that it deserves to be ranked among the finest of 20th century symphonies.

As with all of these latest Albany Symphony productions, David Alan Miller leads expert performances, beautifully played (the Albany strings do a particularly good job at the end of the symphony) and vividly recorded. Gould's symphony especially has all of the emotional intensity that the music requires, the relentless energy of the opening movement taking on an ominous aspect in light of the music's ultimate destination. Whether heard in SACD stereo or standard playback formats, this is one of the most important discs of symphonic music to come along in quite some time. Even if you don't respond positively to the other pieces on the disc (and they all are a touch more "modern" than Albany's musical average), you will find owning Gould's masterpiece well worth the outlay.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

This selection is a Hybrid Super Audio CD. The Stereo Hybrid SACD program can be played on any standard compact disc player. The DSD Stereo program requires an SACD player for playback.
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 "Symphony on Marching Tunes" by Morton Gould
Conductor:  David Alan Miller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Albany Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USA 
Date of Recording: 10/18/1999 
Venue:  Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY 
Length: 32 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Son et lumičre by Steven Edward Stucky
Conductor:  David Alan Miller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Albany Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/11/2001 
Venue:  Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY 
Length: 10 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Watercolors by Gabriel Ian Gould
Performer:  Robert Sheena (English Horn)
Conductor:  David Alan Miller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Albany Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998; USA 
Date of Recording: 11/18/1998 
Venue:  Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY 
Length: 12 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Concerto for Cello by John Harbison
Performer:  David Finckel (Cello)
Conductor:  David Alan Miller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Albany Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 
Date of Recording: 01/20/2001 
Venue:  Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY 
Length: 22 Minutes 39 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Son et lumiere
Cello Concerto: I. Maestoso - Allegro grazioso - Maestoso
Cello Concerto: II. Con fantasia - Subito piu mosso
Cello Concerto: III. Allegro con fuoco
Symphony No. 2: I. Variations: Brisk march tempo
Symphony No. 2: II. Bivouac: Slowly
Symphony No. 2: III. Quickstep: Fast-driving tempo
Symphony No. 2: IV. Memorial: Slow

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