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McDonald, Suesse, Vaughan Williams: Concertos for Two Pianos / Long Duo

Long Duo / Mcdonald / Suesse / Vaughan-williams
Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Sono Luminus   Catalog #: 92129   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Harl McDonaldRalph Vaughan WilliamsDana Suesse
Conductor:  Patrick Souillot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Long Duo
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SUESSE Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra. McDONALD Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra Long Duo; Patrick Souillot, cond; Eskichir Greater Municipality SO SONO LUMINUS DSL 92129 (68: 37)

The talented and comely (judging from the booklet cover photo) Taiwanese sisters Beatrice and Christina Long demonstrated Read more considerable enterprise in selecting a couple of rarely performed two-piano concertos (Suesse and McDonald) for this debut recording for the new label Sono Luminus. And, given the limited repertoire for this combination, their additional choice of the roilingly rough-hewn Vaughan Williams makes a kind of sense, although we are still awaiting a first recording of the Piston effort in this genre.

Dana Suesse (1909–87) was a Kansas City prodigy who in her 20s became a prominent member of the “metropolitan” school of composers gathered about, and promoted by, showman-musician Paul Whiteman. After Whiteman’s landmark Aeolian Hall concert that launched Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue , Whiteman became a mentor to a flock of homegrown composers who had one foot firmly in popular music but aspired to concert hall status, thus instituting our first generation of Third Stream music. More or less at the same time (the early ’30s) that Suesse was publishing such hit songs as You Oughta Be in Pictures and My Silent Love (the latter adapted from an earlier piano piece, Nocturne ), she was soloist in the Whiteman premiere of her Concerto in Three Rhythms, which has just been issued on Naxos.

Suesse’s Two-Piano Concerto was labored over during most the 1930s and finally premiered in 1943 by Eugene Goossens with the celebrated two-piano team of Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robinson as soloists. This four-movement piece is a serious and well-proportioned work that, as opposed to the earlier concerto, has only a few dim echoes of Suesse’s pop background. The themes are songfully distinctive and appealing, the formal structure clear and traditional, and the harmonic language an auspicious blend of Grieg and salon music without any soupçon of pretense or banality. This is one of those once-obscure scores that was well worth reviving.

Harl McDonald (1899–1955) was a California-born composer who in later years became closely identified with the Philadelphia Orchestra (eventually serving as its manager) during both the Stokowski and Ormandy eras. A good deal of his music was once available on shellac but, except for his utterly disarming suite for harp and chamber orchestra, From Childhood, it has mostly fallen, undeservedly, into oblivion. Most of his work derived from programmatic concepts (even the four symphonies have movements with titles), but this 1936 two-piano concerto was one of his exceptional efforts in absolute form. As such, it is a very engaging work in conventional tripartite form using a type of Yankee-accented sub-Rachmaninoff idiom, with the middle movement an unexpected theme and variations and the finale employing some of McDonald’s favorite “south of the border” elements. Though the original Stokowski-led recording was reissued on Cala as one of “Stokowski Rarities,” a modern recording was overdue and this one more than meets the mark.

Originally conceived in the 1920s as a solo piano concerto, Vaughan Williams’s Two-Piano Concerto was revised by the composer two decades later, in the process doubling its quotient of energy and tumult. This is quite a challenging score for both the soloists and the orchestra and on balance the Longs hold their own against previous recordings by Whittemore and Lowe (RCA vinyl with Golschmann conducting), Markham and Broadway (Menuhin conducting on Virgin Classics), and the unusually emphatic and fast-clipped Vronsky and Babin, with Boult maintaining a furious pace, on EMI. Though as thoroughly professional as this provincial Turkish orchestra sounds, it can hardly be expected to meet the standards set by the Royal and London Philharmonics. Bearing that in mind, this is a still an acceptably faithful account of the music.

For the Suesse and McDonald works, together with a knowledgeable annotation by the unique cabaret pianist and singer Peter Mintun (who back in the 1970s brought Dana Suesse out of retirement to attend a Carnegie Hall concert of her music featuring conductor Frederick Fennell and pianist Cy Coleman!), this is an essential release not likely to be duplicated in the near or far future. Grab it!

FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for 2 pianos & orchestra by Harl McDonald
Conductor:  Patrick Souillot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Long Duo
Period: Modern 
Written: 1937 
Venue:  Greater Municipality Art and Culture Cen 
Length: 20 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Concerto for 2 Pianos in C major by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Patrick Souillot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Long Duo
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; England 
Venue:  Greater Municipality Art and Culture Cen 
Length: 27 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Concerto, for 2 pianos & orchestra in E minor by Dana Suesse
Conductor:  Patrick Souillot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Long Duo
Period: Modern 
Written: 1943 
Venue:  Greater Municipality Art and Culture Cen 
Length: 19 Minutes 24 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Exciting New Music! September 4, 2013 By Vernon A M. (Minneapolis, MN) See All My Reviews "Unfamiliar two piano concertos performed wonderfully are always exciting to find....and here we have three.....and all exhibit exceptional creativity. Don't delay. Get acquainted ASAP." Report Abuse
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