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Getty: Young America, Etc / Thomas, Vedernikov, Et Al

Release Date: 07/19/2005 
Label:  Pentatone   Catalog #: 5186040   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Gordon Getty
Performer:  Vladimir ChernovPavlo HunkaLisa DelanGunnar Birgirsson,   ... 
Conductor:  Michael Tilson ThomasAlexander Vedernikov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony OrchestraSan Francisco Symphony ChorusRussian National Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

It is hard to work up sympathy for someone who is both one of the richest men in the world and prodigiously talented. Gordon Getty is both of those things, and the first may well have hurt him, in terms of reputation if not in terms of the quality of his musical output. Getty is not only wealthy, but he is a generous supporter of musical organizations—something he has, in fact, never permitted to be influenced by whether or not those organizations perform his music. But because of his wealth, and his life as a businessman and investor, when one talks to people about his music one hears carefully worded but nonetheless stinging criticism. The word “dilettante” has come up in more than one of those conversations. Frankly, those who feel that Read more way either don’t know his music, or don’t listen with an open mind. Or, possibly, they object to writing music that is clearly intended to speak to a mass classical music audience.

The truth is that Getty is an extremely talented, communicative composer—one who writes in an extremely conservative, audience-friendly style, but who manages to find his own authentic voice. The more of his music I have heard, the more I’ve come to appreciate him as a powerful musical personality. Getty is a knowledgeable opera-lover, and that passion is reflected in the fact that the majority of his compositions involve the voice. He says about his writing: “Much of my stuff, if premiered a century earlier, would not have sounded strange. I’ve attended quite a few composers’ conferences where I meet people working in a wide range of styles . . . and I’m the only guy at those gatherings who is writing classical music in a mainly 19th-century idiom. . . . Passion and ideals are what move me, and they were central to the pre-modern ethic.” He may be too hard on himself; while his music is tonal and tuneful, it is not without touches of 20th-century harmonic grammar, and certainly much of it would surprise 19th-century audiences. Nonetheless, for any listener who enjoys robust choral writing, good tunes, lively rhythms, and ethereal beauty, this disc can be enthusiastically recommended.

The texts of Young America were mostly written by Getty, except for the closing number, “When Daniel Boone Goes By at Night,” which is by Stephen Vincent Benét. This music and the texts recall just what the title implies, a young America, and the work is evocative and powerful despite or perhaps because of its simplicity. Getty also has a nice feel for orchestral colors. The Three Welsh Songs are settings by Getty, and “All Through the Night” is a remarkably beautiful closing to the group. Victorian Scenes is a setting of poems by Tennyson and Housman, and evokes scenes of nature very effectively. Annabel Lee is a setting of Poe’s heart-on-sleeve poem paying tribute to his wife who died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. What saves Poe’s words from excessive sentimentality is their deeply felt sincerity and the elegance of his outpouring of love and sorrow, and Getty captures this in his music.

Plump Jack is an opera, which Getty says is “about the opposite trajectories of Hal and Falstaff in the Henriad.” The “Jerusalem” scene depicts the collapse of Henry IV and Hal’s reconciliation with him. Special praise goes to baritone Chernov, soprano Delan, and bass Hunka for their clear, committed singing in this scene. All of the performances here are excellent—both choirs sing with beautiful blend and balance, clear diction, good intonation, and a real feeling for the music. I heard the SACD in regular two-channel stereo and thought the sound superbly balanced, with plenty of air around the chorus but no muddiness. PentaTone supplies full texts. This is an extraordinarily engaging disc, one to which I shall return many times.

Henry Fogel, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Young America by Gordon Getty
Performer:  Vladimir Chernov (Baritone), Pavlo Hunka (Bass Baritone), Lisa Delan (Soprano),
Gunnar Birgirsson (Baritone), Mats Carlsson (Tenor)
Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Alexander Vedernikov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra,  San Francisco Symphony Chorus,  Russian National Orchestra  ... 
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001 
Old Welsh Folk Songs by Gordon Getty
Period: 20th Century 
Annabel Lee by Gordon Getty
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990 
Victorian Scenes by Gordon Getty
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989 
Jerusalem by Gordon Getty
Period: 20th Century 

Sound Samples

Young American: I. Hark the Homeland
Young American: II. Heather mary
Young American: III. My Uncle's House
Young American: IV. War Interlude
Young American: V. Daughter of Asheville
Young American: VI. When Daniel Boone goes by at Night
3 Welsh Songs: I. Welcome Robin
3 Welsh Songs: II. Kind Old Man
3 Welsh Songs: III. All Through the Night
Annabel Lee
Victorian Scenes: I. Blow, Bugle, Blow
Victorian Scenes: II. Loveliest of Trees
Victorian Scenes: III. With Rue My Heart is Laden
Victorian Scenes: IV. Along the Field as We Came by
Victorian Scenes: V. The Time Draws Near the Birth of Christ
Victorian Scenes: VI. All Along the Valley
Plump Jack: Act II Scene 7: Jerusalem

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