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Kurka: Julius Caesar, Symphony No 2, Etc / Carlos Kalmar

Release Date: 06/29/2004 
Label:  Cedille Records   Catalog #: 77   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Robert Kurka
Conductor:  Carlos Kalmar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grant Park Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Ever since Albany released its excellent recording of Robert Kurka's brilliant Symphony No. 2 (a work that easily deserves repertory status) I've been eagerly awaiting this release, devoted entirely to Kurka's work. It's fabulous. Although he died of leukemia in 1957 at age 36, it's clear that Kurka was a major talent, and thankfully he lived long enough to produce a respectable quantity of top quality work, most famously the opera The Good Soldier Schweik, which Cedille released to general acclaim last year. His style is tonal, busy, neo-classically inclined in the manner of Stravinsky or Hindemith, and refreshingly tart, like a good lemon sorbet. The four works gathered here, two world-premiere
Read more recordings and one CD first, also reveal Kurka to be an artist of wide expressive range.

Julius Caesar, subtitled "Symphonic Epilogue after Shakespeare", is a brief (eight minutes) tone poem bustling with ear-catching incident, characterful tunes and motives, and some highly colorful scoring (especially for mallet percussion). Music for Orchestra is made of tougher stuff, a darkly dramatic score whose acerbic harmonies and declamatory brass writing bring to mind early Copland, before his "American" period. The Serenade for Small Orchestra in reality is a symphony in four brief but nonetheless substantial movements. Here the composer's neoclassical style is firmly in place, with three witty swift parts embracing an impressively expressive adagio.

This brings us back to the glorious Second Symphony. Conductor Carlos Kalmar's performance is sufficiently different from David Alan Miller's on Albany (coupled with three works by three other composers) to justify the duplication of repertoire, never mind the value of the other works on the disc. In particular Kalmar takes an extra minute over the first movement, which renders its lyrical passages more eloquent and its rhythms clearer, albeit at the cost of some degree of sheer ferocity. Neither approach strikes me as inherently "better" than the other, and like all great music the contrast merely enhances our appreciation of the composer's expressive intentions. Timings are virtually identical in the slow movement and finale, the latter movement still impressing me as among the best six-and-a-half minutes of music by anyone.

In all four works the Grant Park Orchestra plays amazingly well, especially considering the unfamiliarity of the repertoire and the fact that Kurka's orchestration is all muscle, with no fat at all. The strings in particular phrase with impressive rhythmic unanimity. Albany and Cedille also have captured their respective performances in very different sonics. The Albany recording puts you on the conductor's podium, with cutting brass and soloistic timpani. Cedille prefers a warmer perspective, with richer bass and more presence given to the strings and woodwinds while certainly not stinting on the brass and percussion. Again, both are outstanding, and the sound seems to complement both conductors' interpretive preferences. I have no hesitation in acclaiming this disc as one of the most important and rewarding releases of 2004. [6/9/2004]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Julius Caesar "Symphonic Epilogue", Op. 28 by Robert Kurka
Conductor:  Carlos Kalmar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grant Park Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Symphony no 2, Op. 24 by Robert Kurka
Conductor:  Carlos Kalmar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grant Park Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; USA 
Music for Orchestra, Op. 11 by Robert Kurka
Conductor:  Carlos Kalmar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grant Park Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Notes: Composition written: USA (1948 - 1949). 
Serenade "after Walt Whitman", Op. 25 by Robert Kurka
Conductor:  Carlos Kalmar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grant Park Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1954; USA 

Sound Samples

Julius Caesar, Op. 28: Julius Caeasar, Symphonic Epilogue after Shakespeare, Op. 28
Symphony No. 2, Op. 24: I. Allegro molto
Symphony No. 2, Op. 24: II. Andante expressivo
Symphony No. 2, Op. 24: III. Presto gioioso
Music for Orchestra, Op. 11
Serenade, Op. 25: I. Allegro molto
Serenade, Op. 25: II. Adagio molto espressivo
Serenade, Op. 25: III. Presto
Serenade, Op. 25: IV. Allegro

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