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Ewazen: Horn Concerto / Hustis, Phillips, Et Al

Release Date: 10/04/2005 
Label:  Crystal   Catalog #: 773   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Eric EwazenBeckel, James A., Jr.Simon Sargon
Performer:  Gregory Hustis
Conductor:  Paul C. PhillipsPaul Clifford Phillips
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dallas Philharmonia
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Crystal continues to showcase the playing of distinguished orchestral principals, in this case Gregory Hustis, who has played French horn with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra since 1976. This is his fourth CD, at least on this label. It comprises three horn concertos, two of which (Ewazen?s and Sargon?s) were written for Hustis and dedicated to him. He is a strong player, very much at home when the horn is in declamatory mood, and all three works give him plenty of opportunity to strut his stuff. I don?t know whether the musicians of the Dallas Philharmonia are drawn from the Dallas Symphony or elsewhere?perhaps a reader can enlighten me?but they give Hustis sensitive Read more and idiomatic support under Paul Clifford Phillips.

Eric Ewazen is a New York-based composer and a member of the Juilliard faculty. His own teachers included Babbitt and Schwantner, although his music doesn?t resemble theirs at all. He was composer-in-residence with the St. Luke?s Chamber Ensemble and several CDs of his music are available, including one containing works for string orchestra. His Horn Concerto is attractive and well written, with more than a touch of the movies about it. Its first movement sets off in epic mode, achieving the kind of momentum you associate with a John Williams score?they speak the same language?while the slow movement evokes the Hollywood Western?s open prairie. This comparison is no insult: the level of expertise and creative imagination in many film scores is phenomenal. Ewazen?s concerto shares Williams?s ?instant access? in its style, and even in the shape of some of its melodic material.

Simon Sargon is the eldest of these three composers (b. 1938). I must admit I find his piece the least compelling. Questings shares most of the virtues of the Ewazen concerto and is easy on the ear, but the lack of a distinctive personality lets it down. For instance, the third movement, Burlesque/Finale, could be more arresting. The notes describe a ?simple, tonal march-like theme . . . detoured into bitonality and dissonance by the orchestra,? but the bitonality turns out to be not even as pungent as Darius Milhaud?s (for example). Harmonically speaking, there is not a lot at stake here. It feels just a little tame.

The more times I?ve listened to James Beckel?s The Glass Bead Game , the more it has grown on me (in spite of the initial jolt of hearing it open with a passage straight out of Holst?s Mercury ). This concerto?s inspiration comes from the novel by Hermann Hesse; the CD notes set out the specific program in full detail. Readers may know Hesse?s novel; it was required reading for serious young intellectuals in the 1970s because of its heady combination of angst and mysticism. Hesse?s and Beckel?s thesis is that ?man exists . . . in a purposeless universe that is basically hostile.? I presume all creative people know how that feels. Fanfare reviewers sure do! Luckily, you don?t need to understand what this concerto is about to enjoy it, primarily because Beckel is such a colorful orchestrator. His use of harp and piano in the orchestral fabric is distinctive, and his depiction of a church-like atmosphere in the second movement especially effective. As with the other concertos, the horn part is written for a virtuoso and Hustis effortlessly rises to the challenge. Another recording of The Glass Bead Game exists, performed by the original dedicatee Kent Leslie, which I have not heard.

Crystal?s sonics are all they should be, reproducing a genuine concert hall ambience. In Beckel?s piece, I would have liked more up-front detail from the orchestra, but this is certainly how it would sound live. If you?re into horn concertos, this disc is for you?but there are more individual such works around, like the epigrammatic horn concerto by Oliver Knussen (DG) and Peter Schickele?s wacky old Pentangle (Albany), both recently reissued.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Horn by Eric Ewazen
Performer:  Gregory Hustis (French Horn)
Conductor:  Paul C. Phillips,  Paul Clifford Phillips
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dallas Philharmonia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Concerto for Horn "The Glass Bead Game" by Beckel, James A., Jr.
Performer:  Gregory Hustis (French Horn)
Conductor:  Paul Clifford Phillips
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dallas Philharmonia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Concerto for Horn by Simon Sargon
Performer:  Gregory Hustis (French Horn)
Conductor:  Paul Clifford Phillips
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dallas Philharmonia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

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