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Music Of Life

Univ. Of Louisville So
Release Date: 10/08/2013 
Label:  Ablaze Records   Catalog #: 00008  
Composer:  Karel Husa
Performer:  Paul York
Conductor:  Kim-Cherie Lloyd
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Louisville Symphony Orchestra

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HUSA Cello Concerto 1. Pastorale. The Trojan Women Kimcherie Lloyd, cond; U Louisville SO; 1 Paul York (vc) ABLAZE 00008 (56: 74)

Czech composer and conductor Karel Husa, a U.S. resident since 1954 and citizen since 1959, is probably most associated in this country with his lengthy tenure as professor of music at Cornell University and his work with that institution and crosstown Ithaca Read more College. He has also had a long and fruitful association with the University of Louisville, from which this recording originates, highlighted by the commissioning of the ballet The Trojan Women in 1980 for the opening of the university’s new school of music. Earlier this year Husa, now 90, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the university.

In 1993 the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award was awarded to his Cello Concerto. The concerto was written for Lynn Harrell, who performed the work but never recorded it. It calls for huge forces, almost Mahlerian in scope, against which the cello is pitted at times, often in extremis . However, as in Mahler’s works, the orchestra is also used subtlety and even with extreme delicacy. Within its five movements, the work explores the full expressive and harmonic range of the cello, from the dark violence of the opening passage in the lowest range of the instrument, to the often ethereal lyricism of the “Remembrance” movement, to the agonized flights into extreme harmonics of the ending. I have not heard Lynn Harrell in this challenging work, but it does not seem likely that he could have been more impressive than University of Louisville faculty member Paul York.

The Pastorale for string orchestra, a 1980 commission from the American String Teacher’s Association, is a work of more modest scale and demands based on a work for violin and piano from Husa’s student years. As the title implies, it is understated and warmly expressive, in distinct contrast to its discmates, though the vistas are never completely unclouded and the chromaticism never lets the work settle too comfortably.

Scenes from The Trojan Women is a suite taken from the full-length ballet, which at its 24-minute length contains a little more than half of the full score. While the work recounts Euripides’s story of the aftermath of the Trojan defeat, Husa drew its immediacy and horror from the 1942 Nazi revenge scourging of the Czech village of Lidice: the slaughter of the men and the deportation of the women and children to concentration camps and eventual extermination. It is an emotionally draining work, relentless in its depiction of unbearable grief and terror.

Two of these are premiere recordings, and most welcome for that. The Scenes from The Trojan Women has appeared before on a Phoenix CD (reviewed in Fanfare 21:5), with the Brno State Orchestra conducted by the composer. The scenes chosen are not, however, identical to the published suite recorded here, most notably in the substitution of the Hecuba’s “Lullaby” to her grandson for the scene of his capture and killing. The entire ballet was recorded by the Louisville Orchestra not long after the 1981 premiere, and is available on the Louisville Editions label. Both previous recordings have considerable merit, and the composer’s reading lays claim to authoritativeness, but neither has the raw passion of the performance by this amazing student ensemble. The live performance on this new Ablaze release is more intense and percussive, the players more committed to and comfortable with the many modern techniques employed, and the technical execution by the University of Louisville ensemble and their conductor easily as fine as that by the two professional orchestras. The release also boasts demonstration-quality engineering throughout, an important attribute in this richly scored, highly dramatic, and exceptionally dynamic work. It and the release as a whole come most highly recommended.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

The Trojan Women by Karel Husa
Conductor:  Kim-Cherie Lloyd
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Louisville Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1981 
Concerto for Cello by Karel Husa
Performer:  Paul York (Cello)
Conductor:  Kim-Cherie Lloyd
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Louisville Symphony Orchestra
Pastorale for String Orchestra by Karel Husa
Conductor:  Kim-Cherie Lloyd
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Louisville Symphony Orchestra

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