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Porter: Symphonies 1 & 2, Poem And Dance / Hobson

Release Date: 05/27/2003 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 574   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Quincy Porter
Conductor:  Ian Hobson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sinfonia Varsovia
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

With labels such as Naxos and Albany leading the way, we're getting a long overdue second look at a generation of American composers whose neo-classic, conservative music was out of favor through much of the post-war period. Copland, Harris, and a few others retained a tenuous position in concert programs as their more populist works continued to get some exposure; but composers like Quincy Porter faded into semi-obscurity. In Porter's case, he, like Piston, whose music is similar, was stigmatized by the "New England" label, short-hand for safe and boring, sort of a Yankee equivalent of the British "cow-pat" pastoralists. Porter's long association with Yale (he even died watching a televised Yale-Princeton game) helped Read more him earn yet another pejorative label: "academic". Well, if the two major works on this disc are any indication, Porter was a fine symphonist. Rather than "boring", these two symphonic bookends to his career are eventful, rhythmically interesting, melodically rich, full of feeling, and totally engrossing.

The First Symphony, from 1934, is in three movements. The first opens in the declamatory style familiar to large-scale American orchestral works of the time, and continues with energetic music and syncopated rhythms that keep toes tapping. An elegiac central section is beautifully molded, and the movement ends with an assertive orchestral drive to a big climax. The second movement Andante is attractive, with rocking strings and lovely wind contributions, and the finale brings a rush of outdoorsy energy.

The four-movement Second Symphony, from 1962, is immediately gripping. Its first movement, a Lento notable for a luscious horn/oboe duet and warm strings, is followed by a brief Scherzando, supplanted by a warm Adagio that stops short of being sentimental. After a brief, cheerful opening the final Allegro continues the warmly expressive atmosphere until the winds and percussion announce a more energetic disposition, and the movement sways between the two moods, ending with a triumphal orchestral outburst.

The two big works are separated on the disc by Poem and Dance, from 1932. Both movements deliver on the promise of their titles: Poem is touchingly lyrical and Dance is animated and pulsating, with hints of early-1930s jazz. Ian Hobson and the excellent Polish band give first-rate performances that present these interesting works in their best light. My only quibble is that the Scherzando of the Second Symphony could have a more biting brand of irony, and I'd prefer slightly more unbuttoned energy in some of the faster movements of both big works. But such comments are trivial compared to Hobson's choice performances. This disc had me thirsting to hear more of Porter's music.

– Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 1 by Quincy Porter
Conductor:  Ian Hobson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sinfonia Varsovia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; USA 
Poem and Dance by Quincy Porter
Conductor:  Ian Hobson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sinfonia Varsovia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; USA 
Symphony no 2 by Quincy Porter
Conductor:  Ian Hobson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sinfonia Varsovia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962; USA 

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