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German: Symphony No 1, Etc / Wilson, Bbc Concert Orchestra

Release Date: 07/11/2006 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 7156   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Edward German
Conductor:  John Wilson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GERMAN The Tempter: Overture. Romeo and Juliet: Prelude. Hamlet. The Willow Song. Symphony No. 1 in e John Wilson, cond; BBC Concert O DUTTON 7156 (77:19)

Whenever one thinks of Sir Edward German (1862–1934), the genres of operetta and theatrical light music come to mind. However, it is not generally known that this Read more precocious graduate of the Royal Academy of Music also harbored ambitions as a creator of more substantial fare, as the five items represented here—four of them products of the 1890s, his first decade as a recognized composer—illustrate with considerable amplitude and appeal.

German’s Overture to a fashionable play of 1893— The Tempter —is drawn from one of his earliest incidental scores, a profitable field into which he almost seems to have stumbled but fulfilled with exceptional flair and professionalism, especially after he was appointed musical director of the Globe Theatre. This solid and formally satisfying piece epitomizes the kind of histrionic but dignified, even exalted, level of urgency and immediacy German was able to bring to a task that is more often than not carried out with dutiful anonymity. This overture is followed by his Prelude to a production of Romeo and Juliet from two years later, which the composer fashioned into a full-fledged and self-contained concert work full of elegant Sturm und Drang comparable to Tchaikovsky’s famous overture-fantasia. Then comes Hamlet , an even more elaborate 20-minute symphonic poem of 1897, which represents a very trenchant, through-composed amalgamation and expansion of incidental music for a production that never materialized. This work achieves a level of tragic power and solemnity as well as a narrative continuity that shows what German was capable of when not tied down to the purely functional concerns of a theatrical vehicle.

German’s first of two symphonies is an 1890 reworking of youthful ideas from his student years, and its half-hour span confirms annotator Ray Siese’s designation as “cogently argued and outstandingly tuneful.” Unlike his older contemporaries Parry and Stanford, German was somewhat less oriented towards the Germanic symphonic tradition of Wagner and Brahms and more inclined, as in the case of his close friend and mentor Elgar, to produce a type of Anglican variant of Dvo?ák and Glazunov, albeit with a very discernible British inflection. As in all of his output, the themes have a lyrical shapeliness and afflatus that capture and hold the listener’s attention throughout the symphony’s large structure.

Also on this program is a touchingly eloquent shorter work— The Willow Song (1922), which is subtitled “a Tone-Picture on the traditional melody ‘A poor soul sat sighing’ from Othello .” Based on a theme of Elizabethan cast, this music has a darker and more subjective aura than the other earlier works and reveals that German never turned away from his aspirations as a “serious” composer.

Under the exceptionally talented and versatile young conductor John Wilson, the always-reliable BBC Concert Orchestra provides rich and resonant realizations of these lovely gems of Edwardian ethos—all premiere modern recordings—which one hopes will bring German back into fashionable focus. A winning accomplishment all around.

FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 1 in E minor by Edward German
Conductor:  John Wilson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: England 
Hamlet by Edward German
Conductor:  John Wilson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897; England 
The Tempter: Overture by Edward German
Conductor:  John Wilson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; England 
Romeo and Juliet: Prelude by Edward German
Conductor:  John Wilson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1895; England 

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