The American Impressionist composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes
enjoyed a brief vogue in the earlier part of the last century,
but then fell into obscurity, perhaps because a little of his
favored faux Orientalism - like the ersatzAmericana
of Carlisle Floyd and Douglas Moore - goes a long way. Griffes
originally wrote the four Roman Sketches for piano, though
he only got around to orchestrating two of them, with the first, The
White Peacock, attaining independent status as a concert
piece. The producer of the present disc, Craig Leon, whoRead more claims
expertise as both an arranger and an ethnomusicologist, has completed
the task, matching Griffes's own orchestral style nicely. Not
examining the booklet carefully until after I heard the disc,
I had no idea that the arrangements weren't all the composer's.
The White Peacock goes nicely; the gorgeous liquid woodwind
solos are a delight. Night begins with a harder edge before
blossoming into coruscating sonorities, with full-bodied horn
duets answered by the woodwinds. The Fountain of the Acqua
Paola remarkably works a Debussyan harmonic palette, generating
activity from strings of parallel chords, into rich, Ravelian
textures. In the concluding Clouds, the celesta accents
in the more lightly-scored passages represent perhaps too obvious
a pictorial stratagem, but the music again opens out voluptuously
at peak moments.
The title Symphonic serenade may seem oxymoronic, and,
indeed, Korngold's "serenade" for strings is no trifling
one: the score is laid out on a "symphonic" scale,
with the first and third of its four movements each running
for over ten minutes. Surprisingly, it's not the rich, Romantic
of the composer's film music that dominates this score. The
outer movements are driven by the vigorous, strongly profiled
of Neo-classicism. The finale's third theme, at 2:09, would
have fit right into Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks! The pizzicatos
of the Intermezzo are aggressive, even spiky - nothing
like the Playful Pizzicato of Britten's Simple Symphony.
The broad, concentrated chorale that begins the Lento religioso suggests
Bruckner, but other influences make themselves felt as the movement
proceeds: vaulting leaps out of late Mahler, hints of the slow
movement of Nielsen 2, and even a bit of anguished Expressionism.
Yet Korngold's craftsmanship fuses this potpourri of influences
into a persuasive musical stream with a compelling, impeccable
The young Italian violinist-turning-conductor, Simone
Pittau, finds just the right touch for Griffes, touching
in detail with a light hand - as noted, the LSO woodwinds shine
- while maintaining a firm rhythmic backbone, and he has a good
grasp of Korngold's arching structures as well. The wide-ranging
engineering strikes a good balance between detail and warmth
in the Griffes; the Korngold sounds a bit blurry, perhaps because
the string playing, while basically accurate, doesn't quite offer
pinpoint precision. For those interested in these less-well-trodden
corners of the repertoire, this definitely merits a recommendation.
-- Stephen Francis Vasta, MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphonic Serenade in B major, Op. 39by Erich Wolfgang Korngold Conductor:
London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1947; Hollywood, Californi
Roman Sketches (4), Op. 7by Charles Tomlinson Griffes Conductor:
London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1915-1916; USA Notes: Arranger: Craig Leon.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Brilliant performance and recordingNovember 23, 2012By George Leigh (Alderley, Queensland)See All My Reviews"This disc marks Simone Pittau as one of the finest conductors alive, and I am at a loss as to why he is not more widely known and employed. Korngold's music is notoriously difficult to conduct, but Pittau does a superb job, letting the music speak for itself and bringing out only the important orchestral parts. This symphony is one of Korngold's three great post-war works (the others being the Symphony in F-sharp and the Violin Concerto), and is perhaps the most classical in spirit of the three (it was composed in his head while he was in hospital after a heart attack). The Griffes is an attractive work and well performed. The recording quality is excellent."Report Abuse
YOU MUST BE A SUBSCRIBER TO LISTEN TO ARKIVMUSIC STREAMING.
TRY IT NOW FOR FREE!
Sign up now for two weeks of free access to the world's best classical music collection. Keep listening for only $19.95/month - thousands of classical albums for the price of one! Learn more about ArkivMusic Streaming