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Dello Joio: Triumph Of St. Joan; Chaconne, Variations & Fugue; Barber: Adagio / Sedares

Release Date: 01/25/1995 
Label:  Koch International Classics Catalog #: 7243   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Norman Dello JoioSamuel Barber
Conductor:  James Sedares
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Among the many Italian Americans who have enriched our country's music literature (for example, Piston, Creston, Mennin, Persichetti, Giannini, and Flagello), Norman Dello Joio—who turns eighty this year—has always stood somewhat apart from the American symphonic mainstream. And yet, if ever a composer has honed a personal language which is instantly recognizable as his and no other's, it is Dello Joio. Among the most prominent building-blocks making up this inimitable idiom are his deep immersion as a child in the sound of Catholic church music (his father was an organist), which led to his fascination with Gregorian chant; his studies with two outstanding teachers of counterpoint and orchestration—Bernard Wagenaar at Juilliard and Paul Read more Hindemith at Tanglewood; and finally his recognition of the vitality and appeal of vernacular idioms, which endows his music with an immediately communicative character as well as a strong theatrical, even at times cinematic, imagination (c.f. his suite from the TV series Air Power available on an earlier Koch CD). In other words, there is never anything remotely academic or recondite in Dello Joio's work, though it always retains its artistic purity and individuality without compromise in this seamless blend of such disparate elements.

The two pieces having their CD premieres on this release form—together with the Meditations on Ecclesiastes already available on three different recordings—the cornerstones of Dello Joio's orchestral output. Both are just under half an hour's duration and tripartite in form; both are constructed according to variation principles, one of the composer's favorite devices, of which he is a supreme practitioner, thus assuring his music its characteristic unity and clarity of facture. Although liturgical-like themes form the basis of both works—the “symphony“ deals with three aspects of a sacred figure—neither work is overtly ecclesiastical in tone. In fact, Dello Joio's music—in spite of the prominent quotient of piety and solemnity in its sources—is never stuffy or overbearing in a churchly sense: it is full of a lucent and resilient spirit embodied in the fundamental constituents of musical expression—song and dance, and his recourse to modified Baroque structures is so totally natural and fluent that even a strictly secular sensibility can apprehend and appreciate its captivating sonorities.

The “Symphony“ is all that remains of Dello Joio's initial attempt at creating an opera built around Joan of Arc, which he later withdrew and recast in an entirely different and more successful form as The Trial of Rouen. The Triumph of St. Joan is not to be confused with Dello Joio's Joan of Arc dance piece adapted by Martha Graham from his Serenade for Orchestra and known as “Seraphic Dialogue,“ although it is worth noting that the great priestess of modern dance did perform a separate choreographic monolog (as she did to Schuman's shattering Judith) to this music. As for the Variations, it is also relevant that the composer's original title was “Three Symphonic Dances,“ so here again the potentially terpsichorian element is still implicit.

Though it would hardly be fair or appropriate to hold Sedares and his New Zealanders up to the standards achieved by such a legendary ensemble as the Philadelphia Orchestra under Ormandy in their powerful Columbia LP recording of the Variations, the fact is that this interpretation more than holds its own against such now-mythical competitors as well as the Columbia LP “Triumph“ played very impressively by an expanded Louisville Orchestra under the underrated Robert Whitney. In fact, Sedares shows himself to be very respectfully aware of the gestural fluidity, gracious élan, and subtle interplay between modal materials and chromatic elaborations of Dello Joio's scores, thus giving us yet another yardstick CD which belongs in every collection of American music. Now, let us hope Koch and producer Michael Fine will go on to explore some never-recorded Dello Joio orchestral opuses, such as the Magnificat for Orchestra (which won the New York Critics' Prize), the Sinfonietta, the Concert Music (premiered by the New York Philharmonic), and the wonderfully Gershwinesque Prelude to the Seven Lively Arts.

The program concludes with a performance of Barber's Adagio for Strings in memory of the almost irreplaceable Andrew Schenck, whose exceptional shoes Sedares now seems more and more capable of filling.

-- Paul A. Snook, FANFARE [3/1994] Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphony "The Triumph of St. Joan" by Norman Dello Joio
Conductor:  James Sedares
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; USA 
Variations, Chaconne and Finale by Norman Dello Joio
Conductor:  James Sedares
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; USA 
Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  James Sedares
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Rome, Italy 

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