Notes and Editorial Reviews
Lukas Foss was a tremendously talented and eclectic composer. His style is impossible to pigeonhole. It ranges from the purest use of tonality to serialism, chromaticism, and plenty of other “isms.” He uses unconventional instruments–accordion, harmonica, Jew’s harp, saxophone, mandolin–with unfailing inventiveness, and gets fresh results out of traditional structures: all of these symphonies have the four usual movements in the order fast-slow-scherzo-finale, even if they sound anything but conventional. The First Symphony (1944) is, not surprisingly, the most harmonically conservative, and it has a recognizably “open,” American sonority. It’s extremely attractive, lively, a bit Coplandesque, and well worth however much attention you have
to give it. No. 2 (1955-6), subtitled “Symphony of Chorales,” is based on Bach although you might not guess it at first. The initial Toccata gives a good sense of Foss’ ability to write in a more challenging idiom that’s nonetheless extremely arresting. Lot’s of music takes Bach as its inspiration, but not so much of it sounds this good and makes something truly original out of the model.
Symphony No. 3 “Symphony of Sorrows” is not as miserable as its title might suggest. Composed in 1991, its second movement “Elegy for Anne Frank” is very touchingly done, sensitive but never mawkish or sentimental. The third movement, inspired by “The Wasteland,” sounds aptly post-apocalyptic, but the concluding “Prayer” assures us that ultimately all will be well. The 1995 Fourth is sparse and austere, somewhat in the manner of Shostakovich’s Fifteenth. Its highlight is the long slow movement (sixteen minutes), a ghostly march with lots of soft percussion interspersed with fragments of quasi-folk tunes played on the harmonica, accordion, and Jew’s harp. It’s quite haunting.
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project has issued an impressive and adventurous series of recordings on its proprietary label, but few releases have been as important as this two-disc set. The playing under conductor Gil Rose is mostly very good–a few moments of shaky string ensemble hardly matter at all–and the engineering is excellent. It’s so good to see these works available at last.
-- David Hurwitz, Classicstoday.com
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 1 in G major by Lukas Foss
Boston Modern Orchestra Project
Period: 20th Century
Be the first to review this title