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Rathaus: Polonaise Symphonique, Piano Concerto / Pirone, Falletta

Release Date: 11/18/1997 
Label:  Koch International Classics Catalog #: 7397   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Karol Rathaus
Performer:  Donald Pirone
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

One of the principal benefits of the advent of compact disc has been an enormous expansion in available repertoire, and this release—the first ever since the beginning of the recording industry to be devoted to one of the most significant Central European/émigré figures from the "between the wars" period, Karol Rathaus (1895-1954)—is an outstanding case in point.

This Polish-born pupil of Schreker and exact contemporary of Hindemith has long deserved representation on disc, but the vicissitudes of his late-1930s Odyssey from the once-familiar Berlin-Vienna axis, first to Paris, then on to London, and finally in 1938 settling in the States, where in 1940 he was appointed to the music faculty of Queens
Read more College in New York City, militated against his being championed by record producers in any of his adopted homelands. And yet his music was frequently and prominently performed at contemporary music festivals throughout Europe up through the mid-1930s and during the 1940s under such distinguished auspices as the New York Philharmonic and conductors like Mitropoulos, Horenstein, and Rodzinski.

If Rathaus's specifically Polish background was to a large extent absorbed into his Germanically oriented training and overwhelmingly cosmopolitan outlook, there was always more than a soupçon of the Slavic in his mature work, as the 1943 Polonaise symphonique demonstrates. While his contemporary fellow Pole Alexandre Tansman (b. 1897) gravitated toward the Stravinsky circle in neo-Classic Paris, Rathaus's music reveals a good deal more of well-digested Szymanowski in its stylistic makeup (although his earliest works from the 1920s, e.g., the First Symphony, are rather fulsomely Straussian). Perhaps the most memorable piece on this program is the near-quarter-hour Vision dramatique of 1945, which—as the title indicates—weaves a powerfully dramatic spell whose mastery of fluid narrative and sensuous tone color can be attributed to the example of Schreker. It makes one speculate as to whether Rathaus could have made a successful living in Hollywood, together with fellow Hitler fugitives like Toch, Dessau, and (briefly) Tansman himself. (In fact, according to the annotator, this option was originally considered by Rathaus, who had already contributed several film scores to German films from the early 1930s.)

The most substantial work here is a wonderfully insinuating Piano Concerto from the early 1940s (the disc housing mistakenly dates it to a year long after the composer's untimely death). This half-hour work in three almost equal-length movements is dominated by two related ideas—an ominously expanding series of chords, and a sometimes sinister, sometimes cryptically mischievous, but always pensively evocative "arabesque" turn of phrase. Although an occasional echo of Bartok breaks through, this primary model—as well as a couple of others (Prokofiev, Schoenberg, et al.)— has been dexterously assimilated with the late Szymanowski of the Sinfonia Concertante into what is a superlatively balanced and integrated score, where virtuoso considerations are always subordinated to priorities of aesthetic logic and emotional flow.

The program closes with a 20-minute suite—in four movements— drawn from one of Rathaus's many incidental scores—Uriel Acosta ( 1936)—from the period just before he left for the States. This proves to be good workmanlike stuff in modified Baroque forms (Prelude, Gigue, Sarabande), but only the concluding Dance has more than a trace of Rathaus's attractively outgoing personality.

The talented JoAnn Falletta has clearly mastered this unfamiliar music in exemplary fashion, and pianist Donald Pirone offers fine support. Let us hope a second volume with two of Rathaus's better pieces (from what is admittedly a relatively modest catalog)—the early large-scale Suite for Orchestra of 1930 and the powerful Third Symphony of 1942^43—is in the works. There is also some excellent chamber music, highlighted by five string quartets.

This disc is a must for anyone who really wants to expand his or her horizons regarding the truly valuable music of our times.

-- Paul A. Snook, FANFARE [3/1998] Read less

Works on This Recording

Polonaise symphonique, Op. 52 by Karol Rathaus
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
Concerto for Piano, Op. 45 by Karol Rathaus
Performer:  Donald Pirone (Piano)
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; USA 
Vision dramatique, Op. 55 by Karol Rathaus
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; USA 
Uriel Acosta by Karol Rathaus
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

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