HANSON: Lux Aeterna. Dies Natalis. The Mystic Trumpeter. Lumen in Christo. Concerto da Camera. Yuletide Pieces. Concerto for Organ, Harp, and Strings. Psalms 8, 150, 121. A Prayer of the Middle Ages. Nymphs and Satyr. Symphony No. 2 (“Romantic”)

HANSON: Lux Aeterna. Dies Natalis. The Mystic TrumpeterLumen in ChristoGerard Schwarz conducting the Seattle Symphony Chorale and Orchestra; James Earl Jones, narrator. DELOS DE-3160 [DDD]; 69:17. Produced by Amelia Haygood.

HANSON: Concerto da Camera. Yuletide Pieces. Concerto for Organ, Harp, and Strings. Psalm 8, “How Excellent Thy Name”. Psalm 150, “Praise Ye the Lord”. Psalm 121, “I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes”.  A Prayer of the Middle Ages. Nymphs and SatyrBrian Preston, piano; Meliora Quartet. David Fetler conducting the Rochester Chamber Orchestra; David Craighead, organ; Eileen Malone, harps. Roberts Weslevan College Chorales; Barbara Harbach, organ. ALBANY TROY-129 (DDD/ADD]; 69:08. Produced by John Gladney Proffitt.

HANSON: Symphony No. 2 (“Romantic”). COPLAND: Billy the Kid: Excerpts. Rodeo: Hoe-Down. GRIFFES: The White Peacock. The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan. GOULD: TropicalCharles Gerhardt conducting the RCA Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonic Pops Orchestra. CHESKY CD-112 [ADD]; 62:15. Produced by Charles Gerhardt.

Howard Hanson was a composer of some endearing and lovable music, despite uneven inspiration and limited craftsmanship. His finest, most fully realized works are his symphonies (and not all seven, either) and his 1933 operatic masterpiece, Merry Mount. His many remaining works must be regarded as peripheral to these, and one’s appetite for them will depend on one’s ability and willingness to tolerate certain excesses in taste and lapses in workmanship in order to enjoy the transitory sensory delights of sonority, texture, gesture, and the rich, throbbing melodies that are his most distinctive contribution. Preceding a chronological discussion of the music, here is a consumer-oriented overview of the three discs themselves.

The new Delos release brings to light a number of substantial works that are very rarely heard, and in fine, sympathetic, committed performances, well recorded. These selections fill out the picture of Hanson’s less-well-documented post-Eastman retirement years, while including a little-known pre-Eastman work as well. However, none of these compositions is an undiscovered masterpiece, on a par with the mainstream works of Hanson’s middle years.

The Albany disc reissues performances from a CD on the now-defunct Bay Cities label (see Fanfare 13:2, pp. 228-31), which originally appeared on a Spectrum LP in 1986. That material is augmented by four short choral works, most of which have not appeared on recording before (Psalm 150 was recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir), as far as I know. Hanson enthusiasts who do not have the Bay Cities disc will want this one, as it further documents the pre- and post-Eastman years, although I must warn those who do have the Bay Cities disc that the four additional choral pieces are nothing to get excited about.

The Chesky disc reissues material originally recorded in London during the 1960s and released in a number of different packagings over the years. Included is arguably the best ever recorded performance of the “Romantic” Symphony, handling the work’s intentions and excesses, strengths and weaknesses with complete and sympathetic understanding. (And a small cut – -or was it an editing error? — heard on the Quintessence LP, just before the end of the work, has been restored.) On the other hand, Schwarz/Seattle (Delos D/CD-3073; also reviewed in 13:2) offers a lusher, richer sonic ambience, compared with a certain edginess on the Chesky.


The earliest Hanson piece here is the Concerto da Camera for piano and string quartet, composed in 1917, the year after the composer’s graduation from Northwestern University, and seven years before he assumed directorship of the Eastman School of Music. The fifteen-minute, single-movement work inhabits a French-flavored hyperchromatic late Romanticism, highlighted by a certain Grieg-like melodic simplicity. A key melodic element is the “Theme of Youth” upon which Hanson built his Fantasy Variations some thirty-five years later. It is a luscious work, superbly played, that should appeal to those who enjoy the chamber music of, say, Faure and Saint-Satins, although it displays hardly a suggestion of the mature Hanson style.

The two Yuletide Pieces from 1920 are each a couple of minutes long and are easy to dismiss as trifles. But the “Impromptu in E Minor” should not be overlooked. It is a passionate, ultra-romantic character piece of intermediate difficulty in execution that really ought to be better known. as it would bring pleasure to thousands of pianists, as well as listeners. I guarantee — test your friends: No one will ever guess the composer.

The Delos disc introduces Lux Aeterna, a seventeen-minute tone poem composed in 1923 while Hanson was in Rome, where he was studying with Respighi. Although it was completed the year after the “Nordic” Symphony, it does not reveal the distinctive Hanson voice as clearly as the symphony does, nor does it share the “Nordic’s” coherence of phraseology. Featuring viola obbligato, the work is essentially a sequence of lush, fervent, and colorful episodes strung together rather ineptly, with no concession to classical formalities.

The “Romantic” Symphony and the organ concerto are really the only works featured here that represent Hanson’s essential mainstream style. I have noted frequently in the past that although the “Romantic’ Symphony is his most popular work and may be one of his most representative ones, it is also representative of his most flagrant weaknesses — lack of organic development, episodic structure, overuse of ostinatopatterns chief among them. However, this doesn’t seem to bother anyone, aside from those who don’t find much value in Hanson’s more finely tailored works either. All these same points hold for the organ concerto as well, originally composed in 1926, but revised for smaller orchestra in 1941: a formal disaster, but brimful of sumptuous textures and warm. exuberant emotions, performed beautifully on this recording. See opening paragraph.

This brings us to the later pieces — all except Psalm 8 composed after Hanson’s retirement from Eastman in 1964. Hanson was notoriously enthralled by his own music (not a universal phenomenon among composers) and frequently indulged a penchant: for self-quotation, especially in his later works. (I don’t know how many times he returned to the particular motif that introduces “the theme” (actually, the secondary theme of the first movement) from the “Romantic” Symphony.) He was also known to have been what might most charitably be called a Christian chauvinist, a trait of character reflected in his religious works — which are not terribly inspiring musically — as a tendency toward sanctimonious piety. Though some of these works have their redeeming moments, I do hope that Gerard Schwarz is not planning to record a Bicentennial commission called New Land, New Covenant, an evening-length bomb suitable for the Dan Quayle/Pat Buchanan crowd.

Now. as for the four short choral works on the Albany disc — three psalm settings and A Prayer of the Middle Ages: very bland, benign stuff, verging on the routine. despite a heartfelt moment or two. The baritone soloist in Psalm 121 is unfortunate.

The Lutheran chorale tradition is one of the chief underlying elements in Hanson’s stylistic profile. and comes to the fore in Dies Natalis, a set of variations on a chorale theme. composed in 1967. The theme itself is a typically Hansonian motif that also appears not only in Lux Aeterna but as 
opening motif of Merry Mount. One of his stronger late works, Dies Natalis exists in two versions, one forr orchestra and one for band. A fine performance of the band version, featuring the Eastman Wind Ensemble, has been available since the early days of the CD (Centaur CRC-2014). However, the orchestral version is superior, as the Delos recording demonstrates, because the melody that precedes and underlies the presentation of the chorale theme at the beginning and end of the
work — and is its most memorable element — simply requires the richness of the string sonority to make its full impact.

With Hanson’s music — the later works especially — so oriented around sonority and gesture, the quality of the performance — and of the recording as well — can make the difference between aimless and repetitive pattern-noodling and stirring epiphanies of exultation. Thus, despite an absence of true musical substance, Hanson*s 1969 setting for speaker, chorus, and orchestra of Whitman’s The Mystic Trumpeter makes a splendid impact in Schwarz’s stunning performance, which features James Earl Jones’s fiery declamation of those verses not given over to the chorus. Again there are self-quotations: from the Sixth Symphony in the passage concerning love. and from Chorale and Alleluia toward the beginning of the “culminating song.” But Whitman’s conceit of a ghostly trumpeter who guides the poet through glimpses of the various facets of life provides Hanson with an opportunity to suggest a rapidly shifting series of moods and images. which he accomplishes with great vividness and color.

Lumen in Christo was composed in 1974 for women’s voices and orchestra. Drawing its text from a number of biblical references to light and containing explicit but well-integrated quotations from both Haydn and Handel. this ambitious work is probably the strongest fruit of Hanson’s final decade. Its strikingly arresting opening is followed by a setting of “in the beginning” that sounds like a Gentile’s answer to the first movement of the Chichester Psalms. The second half proceeds with a slow progression of simple musical ideas that could easily sound vacuous. but in Schwarz’s radiant performance evokes a lovely, ethereal serenity.

Returning to the Albany disc. the thirteen-minute ballet suite Nymphs and Satyr is Hanson’s last completed work and. as such. bears some significance, although it is quite flimsy in substance. The lengthy opening section features the warmly undulating waves of which Hanson grew so fond in his later years. A brief central scherzo is based on what I could describe as a bucolic Swiss flavored mountain tune that Hanson originally wrote to sing to his dog. 1 wish he had used something else. The final section returns to the ingratiating spirit of the opening. leaving us with a gentle valediction. The performance is by the Rochester Chamber Orchestra under the direction of David Fetler. who gave the premiere, in the composer’s presence, shortly before his death. Their reading is sympathetic, but a little rough and scrawny,  and the solo clarinet, whose role is important, has some problems.

Hanson’s music is now very well represented on disc. Only a few works of significance are missing. One is the Cherubic Hymn — perhaps Hanson’s finest choral work — and another is Pan and the Priest, an early tone poem somewhat more compelling than Lux Aeterna. Frankly. I am surprised that Schwarz has overlooked them in his survey,  in favor of some really inferior pieces. What is really needed to complete the picture is the first full recording of Merry Mount, which, after all, created quite a sensation when it was premiered by the Metropolitan Opera in 1934 with Lawrence Tibbett in the leading role.


Griffes’s two tone poems — each originally written for piano — are appealing and evocative examples of the sort of highly perfumed and exotic impressionism that was current during the 1910s. Yet Griffes’s music exhibits a cool detachment that distinguishes it from the feverishness of much of this genre. Coincidentally, Griffe’s scoring of these works resembles Hanson’s own highly distinctive approach to orchestration, with an airy translucence derived in part from treating the woodwinds and brasses as independent sections, rather than as reinforcements of the strings. Note that Billy the Kid is represented by five excerpts that add up to only about ten minutes. Morton Gould’s Tropical is a three-minute trifle that can easily be dismissed without comment. However, it really does warrant a few words. Composed during the Great Depression, at a time when Gould was building a national reputation as a composer-conductor-arranger of light classics on radio, this little piece of unmitigated kitsch recalls an era in American musical demography that has totally ceased to exist. 1 would suspect that listeners under the age of forty-five will be mystified by it,. while older listeners will experience a dim nostalgia.

These performances, however, are fantastic. I have never heard the Griffes pieces sound so intense and exciting, and the Copland excerpts are electrifying — perhaps even too much so at times. For the past twenty years or so English conductor and record producer Charles Gerhardt has made a great contribution. by approaching film scores as if they were meant to be art. and contemporary classics as if they were meant to be fun. In the process, he has bridged the gap between “popular” and “serious” genres to some extent, while building a constituency that appreciates both as the “serious fun” they are capable of being. This is epitomized by his performance of Hanson’s “Romantic” Symphony.

FLAGELLO: Passion of Martin Luther King. Serenata. Andante Languido. SCHWANTNER: New Morning for the World. . GIANNINI: Concerto Grosso. Prelude and Fugue. M. GOULD: Harvest.

FLAGELLO: Passion of Martin Luther King. SCHWANTNER: New Morning for the World. James DePreist conducting the Portland Symphonic Choir and the Oregon Symphony Orchestra; Raymond Bazemore, bass and narrator. KOCH INTERNATIONAL 3-7293-2H1 [DDD]: 58:54. Produced by Michael Fine  

FLAGELLO: Serenata. Andante Languido. GIANNINI: Concerto Grosso. Prelude and Fugue. M. GOULD: Harvest. David Amos conducting the New Russia Orchestra. ALBANY TROY-143 [DDD]; 65:50. Produced by Vadim Ivanov 

Here are two exciting new releases that expand the discography of Nicolas Flagello (see overview of Flagello’s life works at the front of this issue), while drawing attention to other wonderful music as well. Released to coincides with the birthday of Martin Luther King in January, the Koch release highlights two extraordinary musical tributes to the Black leader. As Coretta Scott King suggests in the program booklet, the Flagello and Schwantner represent very different approaches to their subject. Schwantner emphasizes King as the inspiring leader who encouraged the black people of this nation to persevere in their struggle to achieve racial justice. Flagello focuses on King as the embodiment of Jesus Christ in our time, martyring himself for the principle of universal love Having been present at the premieres of both works, I can attest. to the overwhelmingly powerful effect each produces in live performance. 

Flagello’s Passion of Martin Luther King is constructed along the lines of an oratorio, in which five choral settings of Latin liturgical texts alternate with solo settings of lines taken from King’s speeches. Actually, the choral portions originated in a work entitled Pentaptych, which Flagello had composed in 1953, but which had left him with certain reservations. King’s assassination 15 years later crystallized for him the realization that the eloquent words of the contemporary spiritual leader could provide just. the human f ocus the Pentaptych lacked. He immediately restructured the work, selecting excerpts from King’s speeches and setting them in an expressive arioso that blends seamlessly with the choral portions, in such a way that the vernacular solo element continually reverberates against the timeless spirituality of the Latin choral sections in a deeply moving synergy. As it stood in 1968, the Passion ended with a setting of “I Have a Dream,” followed by a choral , Jubilate Deo, and it is this version, on never-released recording with brother Ezio as soloist, that has circulated through the tape underground. However, in 1973, James DePreist, who was preparing to conduct the first public performance, persuaded Flagello to omit these two sections, for reasons that have never been made clear to me.  Flagello acquiesced to this request, composing an ecstatic new finale based on material that appears earlier in the work, and this is the version we now hear. Years later, Flagello conceded that DePreist’s suggestion improved the work’s effectiveness, but he remained fond of the “I Have a Dream”/Jubilate Deo sequence. He had begun to compose another choral work, to be called Psalmus Americanus, which would incorporate this material, but never completed it. 

One of the reasons I have presented all this background information is to explain that the music of the Passion, though dated 1968, reflects many characteristics of Flagello’s ultra-romantic pre-1959 style — more deliberate pacing, greater metrical regularity, more consonant harmonic language, and an unambiguous sense of tonality. As always, the orchestration is sumptuous and virile with no stinting on the climaxes, and the choral writing is gorgeous, with especially exquisite part-writing in the Cor Jesu and the Stabat Mater. The solo settings of King’s words are apt — although, admittedly, the refined bel canto approach is a far cry from the robust rhetoric of Black evangelical preaching. In truth, despite the extravagant grandeur of the: music, this is a very personal, almost mystical, interpretation of Martin Luther King, rather than a work of social consciousness. Bass Raymond Bazemore lends poignant expression to his part, but a richer, fuller, more operatic voice could do better justice to it. James DePreist who has conducted the work many times, continues to lend it his tremendous intelligence and musical sensitivity. 

Joseph Schwantner was born in 1943 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for an orchestral work called Aftertones of Infinity. As one of the defectors from academic serialism, he and his work received a good deal of attention around that time. Schwantner developed a distinctive approach that combined an exquisite sensitivity to fanciful gestures and delicate, ethereal sonorities — reminiscent of George Crumb — with phantasmagoric verbal imagery, and frequent use of tonal, consonant musical elements, resulting in a colorful and accessible musical surface with some New Age qualities For some reason, his work seems to have lost: the spotlight more recently, although many of: the younger orchestral composers who have emerged during the past decade have: used his techniques. 

New Morning for the World was composed in 1982, though, like the Flagello, it also draws upon material used in earlier pieces . It is scored for narrator and orchestra, and its musical content is more straightforward and conventional than in any other of Schwantner’s works known to me. Only its copious use technicolor percussion effects dates it as a work or the final quarter of this century. In the manner of’ Copland’sLincoln Portrait, the orchestra serves as a backdrop, creating a vivid framework of moods and emotions against which the: extensive excerpts from King’s speeches are highlighted. Although the orchestra is frequently in the foreground, the text, with its own very musical sense of oratory, is the central point of focus, and retains a much stronger sense of its own identity than in the Flagello. The brilliantly-scored music combines elements of an urgent, exhortatory nature with hushed, fervent., hymn-like passages, which ultimately merge in an ecstatic climax whose effect is hard to resist. 

Schwantner’s work was initially recorded shortly after its premiere, with baseball star Willie Stargell as narrator. He handled his role with eloquence and dignity and I have never been able to understand why that .recording has riot: been reissued on CD. In my review (Fanfare 7:2, pp. 307-8), I expressed a sense of ambivalence about the work, describing my reaction as ” somewhat :like weeping at a sentimental melodrama, while. being fully conscious of the devices employed to induce such a visceral response.” There is a tremendous reliance sure-fire musical devices, without the den sity of structure, or the sense of multiple dimensions that the Flagello offers. On the other hand, having revisited the work periodically during the twelve years since its premiere,  I can testify that it retains its power. It is an enormously effective work, as satisfying in its way as Copland’s enduring memorial to Lincoln. As narrator, Raymond Bazemore offers a touching reading of King’s profound words. 

Rather than producing the sense of redundancy that I feared, bringing together the two works and their differing perspectives enables them to complement each other beautifully, as Mrs. King states in her introductory notes, making this a recording of historical, as well as musical, significance. 


Though less weighted with extramusical interest, the Albany disc is an equally rewarding now release and features four premiere recordings.

Both the Flagello and Giannini works are flavored by Baroque stylistic features, though in the piece by Flagello, these aspects area minimal. Serenata, composed in 1968 for chamber orchestra, is an entertaining diversion — virtually the only one of his mature works that: is devoid of emotional. stress. Its four-movement design is modeled loosely on the Baroque suite, but its musical content. is thoroughly romantic, arid generally warm and cheerful in tone. 

Flagello’s 1959 Concerto for String 0rchestra actually displays explicit use of Baroque features in its outer movements, but not in the “Andante Languido” that forms the central slow movement, offered on this recording. Listeners new to Flagello’s music may think of the elegiac poignancy of Barber’s Adagio combined with the somber severity of Honegger’s Second Symphony and the: pathos of theAdagio lamentoso from Tchaikovsky’s Sixth. But those familiar with his work know that. this heartbreaking lament is echt Flagello in its purest form — one of his core creations (as well one of his own personal favorites). The entire Concerto would be most welcome on recording, but: the “Andante Languido” is certainly effective.– and affecting — on its own. 

Neo-romantic adaptations of Baroque forms and concepts was a key preoccupation of Vittorio Giannini (Flagello’s teacher and mentor) — especially during the 1940s and 50s. The Concerto Grosso of 1946 and Prelude and Fugue of 1955 — both for string orchestra — are excellent examples of his approach, and listeners who enjoy Bloch’sConcerto Grosso No. 1, Creston’s Partita and the Albinoni-Giazotto Adagio will certainly respond to these ingratiating pieces. The outer movements of the Concerto Grosso are bustling and vigorous, at times suggesting the composer’s proclivity foropera. buffa, and with lots of 18th-century-style counterpoint. The slow movement is an  impassioned expression of grief that combines Italianate lyricism with a Bach-like sense of gravity. 

The Prelude and Fugue is essentially cut: from the same cloth, but. I like it even more. It is somewhat more tightly structured and equally heartfelt, with a terrifically exhilarating arid beautifully elaborated fugue in quintuple meter . Giannini was an enormously appealing composer whose la rge and varied output remains unexplored. With this release, and the disc of 24 songs ( ACA C M-2001 1-11 , see Fanfare 16:1 , pp. 242-44), perhaps the exploration is beginning. With most of Howard Hanson’s output available on recording, the equally accessible. and far better crafted) music of Giannini is the next logical step for the growing number of  listeners drawn to this gener ation of American neo-romantics. 

As a bonus, the Albany disc includes the first recording of Morton Gould’s Harvest. This 14-minute tone poem scored for strings with harp and vibraphone is more ambitious arid serious in tone than most of Gould’s better-known pieces, with .less emphasis on overtly vernacular elements. It was composed in 1945, during the period when Gould was at:. the height of his fame — when his weekly light-music series on radio made: him a household name, and Dmitri Mitropoulos was introduc ing his Third Symphony with the New York Philharmonic. If Flagello and Giannini were out of touch with their times, Morton Gould has always been a man of his time. Yet: from today’s perspective, as the musical personalities of Flagello and Giannini seem to transcend their time and place. Gould’s work reveals so little other than its time anal place reflected through counterfeits of then-fashionable Harris and Copland works. In a certain sense, this makes Harvest one of Gould’s most revealing pieces.

David Amos conducted these recordings in Moscow with a group called the New Russia Orchestra. They play with considerable accuracy and sensitivity, producing some. of the most: incis ive performances I have heard under Amos’ sympathetic direction. The sound quality of this disc, as well as the Koch disc, is superb. 

PICKER: Emmeline

PICKER Emmeline – George Manahan, cond; Patricia Racette (Emmeline Mosher), Curt Peterson (Matthew Gurney), Anne-Marie Owens (Aunt Hannah Watkins), et al; Santa Fe Opera O – ALBANY TROY 284-85 (2 CDs; 113:07)

Born and educated in New York City, Tobias Picker, now in his mid-40s, is one of those composers who abandoned the academic formalistic style in which he was trained, to seek a more accessible, communicative musical language. Over the ensuing years he has become one of the more prominent composers of his generation, with three symphonies to his credit, six concertos, and a variety of other works, many of which have been championed by household-name soloists. His first opera, Emmeline, was commissioned to commemorate the fortieth anniversary season of the Santa Fe Opera in 1996. The work seems to have been very well received, and has enjoyed considerable exposure. The Santa Fe production was telecast nationally the following year as part of the PBS “Great Performances” series, and has subsequently been released on compact disc by Albany Records. The opera was produced last season in New York, and Picker is now working on a commission for the Metropolitan Opera, scheduled for 2002.

Emmeline’s libretto was written by J. D. McClatchy, after a novel by Judith Rossner, which tells the purportedly true story of a Maine woman of the early 1800s who unwittingly married the son she had borne at the age of 14. When the truth was revealed, the son deserted her. Ostracized by the community, she spent the remainder of her life alone and in poverty. Picker described his reaction to this rather shocking story as “love at first sight.” Actually, I would not have expected audiences to be able to tolerate such a subject, but I must be getting old. I suppose that as we approach the millennium, there is not much that an audience would admit to finding really disturbing, but mother-son incest is certainly a good candidate, up there with necrophilia and coprophagia.

Anyway, Picker has couched the opera largely in the American verismo style employed successfully by composers like Menotti, Floyd, Hoiby, Pasatieri, and many others, although it also contains some minimalist-like ostinato effects and a few shrill atonal passages as well. I myself am very fond of the American verismo genre, having gained enormous pleasure from many such works — the pleasure of true musico-dramatic synthesis, which I often fail to draw from the standard opera favorites. However, the genre has been much maligned by truly mean-spirited commentators from both ends of the spectrum — proponents of the new and different, who dismiss these works as warmed-over Puccini et al., and defenders of the tried and true, who are content with what they already know and love, and resist the prospect of a new discovery. A small number of these works — e.g., Menotti’s The Medium and Floyd’s Susannah–have broken through this considerable resistance and become “hits,” at least within a circumscribed subsection of the opera-going public. (After all, even Susannah had to wait forty years for its first commercial recording.) But so many other equally memorable, captivating, moving works remain to be discovered and enjoyed by operagoers who seek no more or less than the thrill of gripping human dramas, enriched and enhanced by an expressively congruent musical dimension. Among those that come to mind are Barber’s Vanessa, Hoiby’s Summer and Smoke, Pasatieri’s Black Widow and Washington Square, and Flagello’s Beyond the Horizon.

Considered within this context, Emmeline strikes me as a fairly impressive initial effort, with much to recommend it. Like many works of this kind, the libretto itself has sufficient dramatic thrust to hold the spectator’s interest and move the opera forward. The music is generally effective in heightening the intensity of the drama, but there is little that is truly compelling or memorable on its own, as there is in the operas noted in the paragraph above — and that is probably Emmeline’s greatest weakness. In some of the central portions of Act I the music becomes at times a little grating without contributing much in the way of enhancement. However, there are moments — in fact, much of Act II — in which the music is quite sincerely moving, but not through self-contained arias or set-pieces that develop melodic ideas to major climaxes, but more as affectively intensified speech. Nevertheless, Emmeline has been extremely fortunate in winning the generous support of a number of benefactors, who have enabled it to gain widespread exposure and make a significant impact — the sort of send-off every opera composer dreams of. Its success is gratifying and I hope that it fosters further investment in works of this kind.

Some audience and stage sounds indicate the provenance of this recording in an actual performance, but these do not intrude on or detract from the experience. The singers are fine, the orchestra is adequate, and the quality of the recording is good, allowing virtually every word to come through loud and clear. This recent release is recommended to all listeners interested in American opera. I sincerely regret that my own schedule of responsibilities prevented me from completing this review in a more timely fashion.

W. SCHUMAN: Credendum. PERSICHETTI: Symphony No. 4. GESENSWAY: Four Squares of Philadelphia

W. SCHUMAN Credendum.  PERSICHETTI Symphony No. 4.  GESENSWAY Four Squares of Philadelphia –  Eugene Ormandy, cond; Philadelphia O – ALBANY TROY-276, mono/analog (68:14)

This new release presents three American works from the early 1950s — two of which represent the best of that period — through CD reissues of contemporaneous recorded performances. The fact that these performances were presumed to be definitive at the time may partly account for the fact that none of the works has ever been recorded again.

When William Schuman (1910-1992) was appointed president of the Juilliard School in 1947, he undertook a complete restructuring of the school’s curriculum, hiring an impressive roster of highly talented figures with compatible views to collaborate in its implementation. Among those he selected for the composition faculty were Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987) and Peter Mennin (1923-1983). Although Mennin left Juilliard in 1958 to assume the presidency of the Peabody Conservatory, the three were linked together as composers in the minds of the public (or that portion thereof who knew that there were American composers), identified for better or (what became increasingly the case during the 1960s) worse as the musical version of the “East-Coast Establishment.” In truth, however, the three were highly individual personalities, and as composers, although there were occasional instances of some stylistic overlap, their outputs developed in markedly different ways, as is plainly evident to anyone who listens to a representative sample of each composer’s work. (However, interestingly enough, it was during the years 1950-1955, when they were all working together at Juilliard, that these occasional stylistic overlaps took place.)  Nonetheless, in their own individual ways, these three composers (with the addition of Samuel Barber) produced what is probably the finest, most durable American music of the 1950s, a body of work that has barely begun to be understood and appreciated.

A graduate of Columbia University’s Teachers College, Schuman launched his career at age 25 when he joined the Sarah Lawrence music faculty, deeply imbued with an optimistic, Dewey-based belief in progressive education that represented the cutting edge of pedagogical thinking in America during the middle third of the 20thcentury. Not only did Schuman’s music exude this positivist mentality, but his own career paralleled in many ways the meteoric rise to success enjoyed by many of his contemporaries in the business world, as he went from director of publications at G. Schirmer to president of the Juilliard School at age 35, to founding president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (a term he coined) at 52. In a sense, Schuman represented the spirit of post-World War II America, especially as it extended into the Kennedy and Johnson years, when he was generally considered the most powerful figure in American musical life.           

Indeed, in his personal manner Schuman was rather like the CEO of a large corporation, displaying boundless enthusiasm and creative energy. As he aged, he became even more polished and “presidential” in his affable self-assurance and his gift for spontaneous public utterance. So there is something appropriate about his being commissioned in 1954 by the United States Government to write a symphonic work in honor of UNESCO. This was a very fertile period for Schuman as a composer, and the work he completed the following year, which he called Credendum, is, in many ways, a quintessential statement — not just for Schuman, in the way it captures what program annotator John Proffitt describes as his “humanistic faith in the power of Education, Science, and Culture to shape mankind for the better,” but also as an expression of educated post-war America’s view of what our arts should be addressing.

Proffitt describes Credendum as “one of Schuman’s most important, and characteristic, orchestral works.” I would agree with that statement, adding that it is also the easiest of Schuman’s mature compositions to appreciate, making it perhaps the ideal point of entry into his output as a whole. The work is in three connected sections: the first, “Declaration,” is brash and brassy, assertive and declamatory, with bold percussion punctuations and nervous, syncopated rhythms; the second section, “Chorale,” is based on a solemn — even poignantly sad and longing–hymn melody introduced by the strings — one of the most beautiful melodies Schuman ever wrote. The mood of the music is broadened through a series of clearly-defined variations; “Finale” is fast, based largely on material heard earlier, with irregular rhythmic patterns (and string pizzicati that many will recognize from subsequent works by Leonard Bernstein), polytonal harmony, searing counterpoint, and cumulative pyramid effects, all culminating in an affirmation of unashamed grandiloquence.

If “grandiloquent” is a word that can be applied to many works by William Schuman, it is virtually never applicable to music by Vincent Persichetti, a master of aphorism, small-scale structures, and lightness of touch. Unlike Schuman, Mennin, and many other American composers of their generation, Persichetti did not use the symphonic genre as the medium for his most significant or characteristic musical statements, although he did compose the obligatory nine (of which — as with Schuman and Mennin as well — the first two were withdrawn). (Persichetti’s twelve piano sonatas are much more representative and comprehensive.) Although the Fifth (for strings), Sixth (for band), and Ninth (for full orchestra) are masterpieces, most of his symphonies are far from the soul-baring, angst-ridden post-romantic prototype. James H. North has called Persichetti “a twentieth-century Haydn” (Fanfare 18:1), and no work could exemplify this more than the Symphony No. 4 of 1951, in many ways the consummate Neoclassical symphony. The work is virtually devoid of what we think of as “drama,” and is lightly and transparently scored throughout, rarely rising above a mezzo-forte.  As in so many Haydn symphonies, Persichetti’s Fourth opens with a slow, solemn introduction that proves to be the weightiest music of the entire work. The introduction is followed by a lively allegro, which bounces along with a playful, joyful exuberance. The second movement is tender and gentle, the third gracious and whimsical, while the finale is a brilliant whirlwind in perpetual motion, bringing most of the work’s thematic material together with a joie de vivrethat is irresistibly exhilarating.

I am sorry to report that in comparison to the two works just discussed, the third, Louis Gesensway’s Four Squares of Philadelphia, is of meager interest indeed. Gesensway (1906-1976) was a Latvian-born violin prodigy who spent most of his professional life as a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra. As an adult he studied composition with Kodály in Hungary. He composed the work at hand during the years 1948-51, attempting to capture or express in some way William Penn’s philosophical conception of the city, as well as a sense of its historical development and the character or spirit of its four distinct sections. The well-known Roman-born, Philadelphia-based music critic Max de Schauensee wrote, “What Respighi did for Rome in his tone poems, Gesensway has done for Philadelphia.” I can only attribute such a preposterous derogation of Respighi to local boosterism. While no expert myself on the character or spirit of Philadelphia, I can only say that, having played the work many times over the years (it was the flip side of the LP issue of the Persichetti), I have never been able to keep my attention focused on this incredibly drab, un-picturesque musical portrait, not a phrase of which has ever remained in my memory.

Albany is to be commended for making available many of the mono-era Columbia LPs that featured first-and-only recordings of significant American works. Many of these works disappeared from the scene with the arrival of stereo recording and the musicopolitical shifts of the 1960s. Some, like the Juilliard Quartet’s reading of Peter Mennin’s Second String Quartet and Persichetti and his wife’s rendition of his Concerto for Piano, Four Hands, are definitive performances of musical masterpieces. They have been sorely missed for years and one hopes that Albany is planning to make them available soon, so that they can be discovered by a younger generation of listeners. On the other hand, some of the Ormandy-led readings, while rendering the scores smoothly and accurately enough, lack the flair and conviction of truly great performances. The renditions of the Schuman and Persichetti discussed here are fine, so I don’t want to overstate the point, but they are not the last word, and leave plenty of room for more dynamic, sympathetic, and deeply felt interpretations.

PERSICHETTI: Poems, Vols 1-3. BLOCH Poems of the Sea. M. GOULD: Pieces of China. DIAMOND: Sonatinas Nos. 1, 2

PERSICHETTI Poems, Vols 1-3. BLOCH Poems of the Sea. M. GOULD Pieces of China. DIAMOND Sonatinas Nos. 1, 2 – Mirian Conti (pn) – ALBANY TROY-299 (61:06)

There seems to be a plethora of solo piano recordings these days — probably because they are relatively inexpensive to produce. But there are so many fine pianists around (and the presence or lack of name-recognition is utterly meaningless in a world in which hype overshadows and displaces quality) and so much unrecorded repertoire of merit and interest lying dormant that the appetite of the adventurous collector of 20th-century music remains unsated. And so, here is another new release of unfamiliar modern piano music that is beautifully performed and worth knowing.

On a number of occasions I have made reference to Vincent Persichetti’s large output of piano music, prompted by recordings of a piece or two that merely whet one’s appetite for more. This is a body of work that comprises some 35 pieces, including twelve sonatas, six sonatinas, a concerto, and a concertino, plus works for piano–four hands, for two pianos, et al.  The music spans the years 1929 (when Persichetti was 14) to 1986 (the year before he died), and includes pieces for pianists at all levels, from the beginning student to the advanced professional. I would go so far as to assert that no composer since Scriabin has produced a body of piano music that offers such breadth of meaning, such fluency of articulation, and such richness of invention — not to mention such comprehensive and masterful use of the instrument’s intrinsic resources. Indeed, Persichetti’s piano music fully embodies in microcosm the vast, all-encompassing range of his expression. For this reason a comprehensive recorded survey of this repertoire, undertaken by a pianist capable of and sympathetic to its particular requirements of technique and temperament, is sorely needed. Only then will my seemingly extravagant claims prove to be self-evident.

The particular sample of Persichetti’s work offered to us by Argentine pianist Mirian Conti comprises the three volumes of Poems, composed between the years 1939-41. Persichetti was by temperament a miniaturist: even his large-scale works are usually made up of small structural elements. Poems for Piano consists of 16 tiny pieces, averaging less than two minutes each. Each was inspired by a single line of modern — and American, for the most part — poetry, bursting with imagery. It would be pointless — indeed, presumptuous — for me (with no claim to authority in the area of poetry) to comment on the aptness of his (necessarily subjective) musical interpretations. But I can state that with remarkable subtlety and economy of means these brief sketches embrace a vast range of moods and states of mind, not to mention musical styles and approaches to piano figuration, yet with virtually no redundancy of either meaning or technique. As with most of Persichetti’s music, these pieces can be heard over and over — even within the same time period — without the listener’s becoming satiated, fatigued, or bored. And to think that he composed these pieces during his middle 20s, before his own mature musical language had fully crystallized! True, some are more immediately ingratiating than others. For example, two in particular– No. 10 (“Dust in sunlight and memory in corners,” T.S. Eliot) and No. 15 (“And hunged like those top jewels of the night,” Léonie Adams)–leap instantly and directly into one’s heart. Conti seems to have a real feel for this music, capturing the essence of each miniature without being encumbered by technical limitations of any kind, and exhibiting the crisp touch, textural clarity, and rhythmic precision Persichetti’s music requires. One hopes that she will have the opportunity to record more of his work.

Though sharing the appellation “poems,” Ernest Bloch’s Poems of the Sea are impressionistic evocations whose murky textures provide an aesthetic experience diametrically opposite to that offered by Persichetti. Though composed during the early 1920s, when Bloch produced some of his most intense and profound chamber works, the Poems of the Sea must be regarded as minor efforts. However, as picturesque mood-paintings they offer novelty to recital programs of intermediate-level pianists. Interestingly, although Conti captures the impressionistic textural effects quite nicely, there is a stilted quality, a lack of spontaneity perhaps, to her melodic phrasing. She seems a little uncomfortable with the music, and it is probably the least successful of her performances here. (A rarely-heard orchestral version of these pieces is available on Bis CD-639, with Sakari Oramo conducting the Malmö Symphony Orchestra.)

Surprisingly appealing are Morton Gould’s late (1985) Pieces of China, described in the program notes as an American’s impressions of China. But these six sketches strike me more as a French jazz pianist’s impressions of China. The first piece, called “The Great Wall,” is quite subtle in its fusion of these layers of apprehension, and is worthy of attention; however, as they go on the sketches seem successively less interesting, in their Franco-Stravinskian manner.

Also included are David Diamond’s two sonatinas. Less than five minutes each, they are pleasantly unpretentious and pretty, in a bland, post-Debussy sort of way. (Come to think of it, I guess the ghost of Debussy hovers over all the music on this CD except the Persichetti.) What is most remarkable about these sonatinas is how similar they are, considering that they were composed more than fifty years apart (1935 and 1987).

MUCZYNSKI: Symphonic Dialogues. GRIFFES: Three Poems of McCloud. BRANDON: Celebration Overture. OSBON: Liberty. KLESSIG: Don Juan: Meditation. LAMB J.B. II. FELCIANO: Overture Concertante

MUCZYNSKI Symphonic Dialogues. GRIFFES Three Poems of Fiona McCloud1BRANDON Celebration Overture. OSBON Liberty. KLESSIG Don Juan: Meditation. LAMB J.B. II. FELCIANO Overture Concertante – Paul Freeman, cond; Czech National SO; Louise Toppin (sop); Jean-Michel Bertelli (cl) – ALBANY TROY-322 (62:58)

This recent release is a rather odd grab-bag of styles and periods in American music, from an “old master” like Charles Tomlinson Griffes to a composer still in his 30s, like David Osbon. And the entire production is introduced by the conductor himself, who reads nearly six minutes of program notes before the music begins (a little strange, isn’t it?–I wonder what the thinking was).

The most notable entry on the program is Robert Muczynski’s Symphonic Dialogues. As well represented as Muczynski is on disc today, very little of his orchestral music has been recorded. Truth to tell, there isn’t that much of it, and what little there is tends to lack the urgency, conviction, and distinction so characteristic of his chamber and solo piano works. Composed in 1965, Symphonic Dialogues exemplifies the lively, syncopated, but generic neoclassicism that was the lingua franca of American composers during the 1950s. (The title refers to the prominence of dyadic interaction among the instruments throughout the work.) The piece is well crafted, with a darkly driven quality that gives it some real bite. But its expressive range and character seem a little too comfortably contained within the parameters of the medium. Listeners who have developed a fondness for Muczynski’s chamber works will no doubt want to hear this piece for themselves. Freeman leads an incisive performance that represents the work quite effectively.

If Muczynski’s piece sounds a bit dated, consider the fact that Sy Brandon’s Celebration Overture sounds exactly as if it were written for a Midwestern college band in about 1955 — yet it was actually composed for orchestra forty years later! Lively, robust, and exuberant, it was written to honor the anniversary of a local FM radio station. According to the program notes, Brandon, now based in Pennsylvania, earned his doctorate at the University of Arizona, where Muczynski was Professor of Composition for many years. In view of their stylistic affinity, it is not unlikely that their paths crossed in one way or another. Let me be clear about one thing: in discussing these two pieces, I use the term “dated” as a point of socio-historical description — not as criticism. As regular readers know, I do not adhere to a view in which the acceptability of a musical style is determined by the calendar. My only criticism of either of these works follows from their generic, rather than individualistic, personalities.

The short-lived (1884-1920) Charles Tomlinson Griffes was probably the most artistically successful American composer of the first two decades of this century. His Three Poems of Fiona McCloud, dating from 1918, constitute by far the earliest and best-known music among the motley assortment of pieces on this disc. Along with the Piano Sonata, composed at about the same time, the McCloud (aka William Sharp) settings are his greatest works, exhibiting an opulent intensity that call to mind Strauss and even Barber. North Carolina-based soprano Louise Toppin has a lovely voice and offers a fine rendition of these wonderful songs, although listeners who are chiefly interested in the Griffes are likely to turn to other recordings that offer more compatible programs.

The other fairly ambitious work on the disc is the Overture Concertante for clarinet and orchestra, by Richard Felciano, who is currently based at USC Berkeley. This 14-minute piece was written for clarinetist Jean-Michel Bertelli, who gave the premiere in 1996. If one were to be glib and facile, one might dismiss the piece as a small-scale knock-off of John Corigliano’s Clarinet Concerto, as it partakes of a similarly wide-ranging eclecticism, built largely around coloristic and gestural ideas, but not without a moment or two of surprisingly touching lyricism. It is the kind of piece that can be effective in a live performance, but is not likely to sustain interest with deeper acquaintance. Soloist Bertelli does a fine job, however.

Perhaps the oddest selection is the brief “Meditation” from jazz pianist Richard Klessig’s 1996 ballet score Don Juan. This is a very simple, but very pretty fugal excerpt in a neo-Baroque style. The performance is less precise and polished than most of the others, but the music achieves its effect.

Somewhat interesting is the 8-minute tone poem JB II by Marvin Lamb, currently the Dean of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma. This 1985 work was supposedly inspired by Archibald MacLeish’s play JB, but whatever relationship between the two works may have been in the composer’s mind is not apparent to this listener. The music is a rather haunting contemplation in a language of attenuated tonality, and features extended woodwind solos. But the work fails to hold one’s attention in its attempt to sustain a reflective mood. This performance also is a bit rough and ragged around the edges.

Least successful of all is the 7-minute overture called Liberty, by English-born, American-trained David Osbon. The piece is supposed to be a deliberately ironic and ambivalent commentary on the history of the city of Philadelphia. However, the music itself is just raucous, unpleasant, and unconvincing.

LEES: Piano Sonata No. 4. Fantasy Variations. Mirrors

LEES  Piano Sonata No. 4.  Fantasy Variations.  Mirrors · Ian Hobson (pn) ·ALBANY TROY-227 (65:15)

I recently (Fanfare 20:5, pp. 179-80)reviewed a disc (Albany TROY-138) featuring Benjamin Lees’s three violin sonatas.  There I expressed a certain ambivalence about the composer, asserting that he “has written some truly fine, meaningful, and masterful music,” and praising his “consummate mastery of the techniques that support traditional musical values,” while observing that his work “lacks a strong personal profile, i.e., what is generally meant by ‘personality.’”  I came regretfully to the conclusion that “few listeners whose tastes center around the classical mainstream would find Lees’s music appealing,” although “every time I listen to it, I appreciate it more.”   Rereading that review after having familiarized myself with the music on this new release, I realize that my assessment still holds true, especially the last phrase just quoted.  Hence, both my enjoyment of the music and my  admiration for the composer have continued to grow.  There is something courageous about his apparent refusal to concede to practicalities, either musicopolitical, economic, or narcissistic.  Yet the perplexing issue of “personality” remains.

For me, as for many other listeners, the sense of an identifiable character in the music facilitates the assimilation of a new composer into my psycho-musical data-processing system.  In the case of Lees, I have been peripherally familiar with his music for more than 25 years, but most of what I had heard had seemed dismissable as uninspired Bartók-Prokofiev noodling, the few exceptions to this being “flukes.”  But absorbing the violin disc, followed now by this new recording of piano music, has brought about a whole shift in my conceptualization.  Yes, the earlier music had a strong Bartók-Prokofiev flavor, and yes, maybe that influence persisted for quite a while in Lees’s work.  But some of that music was quite strong in its own right.  For example, the Fourth Piano Sonata truly blew me away when I first heard Gary Graffman’s knockout recording from the mid-1960s on Columbia Masterworks.  That I had regarded as one of those “flukes.”

Lees’s Piano Sonata No. 4 (1963) was commissioned by, dedicated to, and first performed by Graffman, who recorded it soon afterward.  It is an ambitious work in three movements, with (as mentioned) an unmistakable debt to Prokofiev, but considerably more complex and involved than any comparable work of his.  While so relentlessly aggressive as to suggest the brutal Czech group represented by Kabelác and Fiser at times, it is quite an impressive and fully consummated achievement.  Graffman’s interpretation emphasized the sonata’s hammerlike pugnacity above all else.  The English pianist Ian Hobson, currently on the faculty of the University of Illinois, is a little less driven, his articulation warmer and less brittle.  He offers a somewhat mellower approach, but without slowing the tempo down by more than a half-minute or so, and with no less meticulous articulation.  Hobson’s approach is quite eloquent, and gives a bit more weight and significance to the second movement, but I must admit to preferring Graffman’s manic energy.

The two other works are examples of the kind of music Lees has composed since around 1970, when he was in his mid forties.  Here the baggage from the past seems to have fallen away, leaving in its wake a rather serious, impersonal voice quite difficult to characterize.  But I now see its lack of “personality” as a sort of unromantic self-effacement.  There is a real creative power here, a strong, commanding voice — authentic, uncompromising, and quite abstract, yet consistently traditional in the logic of its approach to structure.  The music is varied in character and tonal, if not likely to be heard that way.  It is neither “classical” nor “romantic” in any meaningful sense, neo- or otherwise.

Fantasy Variations dates from 1983 and consists of 17 short variations on an original theme.  First performed by Emanuel Ax, it is a virtuoso work.  The variations are concise and highly varied in character, displaying a wealth of compositional techniques and keyboard devices.  Very similar in language and style are the six Mirrors.  Lees composed the first four in 1992, especially for Hobson.  He then wrote two more over the next few years and, according to the program notes, there are more on the way.  Of course, each piece — of two to four minutes duration–can stand on its own independently.

As indicated earlier, this music is destined from the start to reach a very small audience.  There is absolutely nothing meretricious or ingratiating that might win listeners’ sympathies — no “cheap thrills,” no extramusical references — neither poetic, historical, nor affective, no fashionable systems or isms, no pretty melodies, no rich harmonies — just a very solid balance among high quality of material, high quality of content, and high quality of workmanship.  In this sense Lees shares something (though not his “sound”) in common with Frank Martin and (even more) with the late music of Walter Piston.  I strongly urge listeners who appreciate those two to seek out Lees.  A bit of patience will be rewarded generously, as more and more dimensions catch one’s attention.  Though perhaps not grasped right away, there are real depth and substance here.

BARBER: Works for Piano; COPLAND: Piano Sonata. Piano works by HAGEN, CARTER, CHOPIN, MUSSORGSKY, SCHUMANN, & SCARLATTI.

BARBER Complete Published Solo Piano Music – Daniel Pollack (pn) – NAXOS 8.559015 (72:16)  Three Sketches (1923-24); Interlude I (1931); Excursions, op. 20; Sonata, op. 26; Souvenirs, op. 28; Nocturne, op. 33; Ballade, op. 46

BARBER Sonata, op. 26; Nocturne, op. 33; Ballade, op. 46. HAGEN Qualities of Light – Jeanne Golan (pn) – ALBANY TROY-324 (58:53)

BARBER Sonata, op. 26. COPLAND Sonata. CARTER Sonata – John Owings (pn) – KOCH INTERNATIONAL 3-7622-2H1 (66:56)

  FRICK COLLECTION RECITAL – William Kapell (pn) – RCA RED SEAL 09026-68997-2, mono/analog (74:54). Live broadcast: New York, 3/1/1953

COPLAND: Sonata. CHOPIN: Nocturne, op. 55/2; Mazurka, op. 33/3; Polonaise-Fantaisie, op. 61. MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition. SCHUMANN: Kinderszenen (no. 1). SCARLATTI: Sonata in E, K.380/L.23

Here is the latest crop of releases to address the piano music of Samuel Barber, along with some other important (mostly) American piano music. Naxos’s American Classics series enters the fray with a generous program featuring the veteran California-born and -based pianist Daniel Pollack. Pollack’s performance of the Barber sonata at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 created quite a stir during the “Cold War” period, although it was rather overshadowed by Van Cliburn’s triumph that same year. Pollack’s recording of the sonata, made shortly thereafter for Melodiya, became one of the leading representations of a work far less familiar then than it is today. (Of course, Cliburn made his own reasonably successful recording of the sonata about ten years later.)

Despite the high esteem in which it is held by many, I have always felt that Barber’s 1949 Piano Sonata is not quite the towering masterpiece one might expect such a work from this composer to be. Though I have been voicing this opinion for many years, I must admit that hearing countless performances, radically different in approach, has increased my affection for the piece, and I cannot deny that the more penetrating readings give me considerable pleasure. However I continue to feel that the work suffers from several weaknesses that cannot be totally overcome. One problem is that the texture of the first movement is overly congested, and with material that is too disparate in character, so that it seems to ramble frantically in too many different directions. A commonly encountered approach to this movement is to set a vigorous tempo and attempt to focus on the broad outline, with the result that the motivically dense texture becomes messy and chaotic. Another approach is to concentrate on conveying the many mood shifts and on elucidating significant textural details, but this often produces a performance in which the proverbial forest is concealed by the trees, as the overall sense of focus and direction is lost. The only solution is—as in many works of Scriabin—to attempt the extraordinarily difficult task of doing both, i.e., setting and maintaining a vigorous sense of direction, while also delineating the many mood shifts and textural elements within their relative relationships to each other. I have heard only one performance that achieves this goal (and I will identify it in a moment).

My other major complaint applies to a number of works that enjoy popular favor, so perhaps my feelings are not shared by everyone. I believe that it is necessary for a large-scale, multi-movement work to be unified by a consistent, superordinating concept, such that individual movements, regardless of how much they may differ from each other with regard to tempo, texture, thematic material, etc., join collectively in conveying this concept. In order words, the movements “belong” together. From this perspective, the twinkly little scherzo movement and the fugal finale in the style of a Latin-American dance, while providing conventional contrasts in mood, tempo, and pianistic challenge, are not consistent with or relevant to the overall meaning of the work, as proclaimed by the restless and uncontainable first movement, and acknowledged by the eloquently somber slow movement. And so, pianist after pianist, proceeding from the unquestioned premise that Barber’s is the American traditionalist piano sonata par excellence, flails about in vain, trying to make it “work.”

Pollack’s approach is to tear at the work at break-neck tempos, completing the task at 18:12. While this tack certainly generates excitement, some passages, virtually impossible at such tempos, become scrambled and messy. Furthermore, Pollack’s playing lacks sensitivity. Indeed, he plays most of the pieces on this disc in a crude, obvious, and heavy-handed way, with unusually fast tempos that minimize the depth of the music, skirting over emotional nuances, and missing the reflective and ethereal moments completely. If Pollack’s reading of the sonata is rather crass, a piece like the delicate Nocturne is completely destroyed, while the inherently campy Souvenirs are deprived of the graceful and stylish charm that redeems their otherwise kitchy banality. Interestingly, the music that fares best in Pollack’s hands are the Excursions. Here the composer’s fastidious ventures into vernacular American styles benefit from the hearty virility imparted by Pollack.

In addition to the usual entries in the Barber canon, Pollack also includes some of the posthumously published works that have just recently been appearing on recording: the early salon pieces called Three Sketches and the 6-or-so-minute Interlude I. I expect that we will encounter this latter work fairly often now, as it is the short solo piano work in Barber’s much-beloved early style that pianists and audiences have long wished for—the pianist’s answer to the Adagio for Strings, so to speak. Interlude I does display the fingerprints of Brahms more than anything else he wrote, which probably accounts for the composer’s decision not to include the piece, composed at about the same time as Dover Beach, in his official worklist. However, its warmth and lyricism are lovely, and its mood and character could only be attributed to Barber.

Pollack’s performances were recorded in California in 1995. For some reason, the piano has both a metallic and muffled tone quality that is odd and not terribly appealing. So, in summary, this may be the least expensive recording of Barber’s piano music, but it is definitely not the best. That distinction belongs to what is — most unfortunately — probably the least readily accessible disc: a French release on the Solstice label (SOCS 145; see “A Continuing Reassessment of Samuel Barber,” in Fanfare 20:4), featuring the Bulgarian pianist Lilia Boyadjieva. All listeners who are interested in Barber’s piano music are urged to make the effort to locate this recording, if for no other reason, just to hear the most fully realized performance of the Piano Sonata on disc.

If Pollack’s reading of the Barber sonata is the most extreme example of the “fast and furious” approach, then Jeanne Golan’s — at 25:06 — is the most extreme example of the “elucidate every strand” approach. Trained both at Yale and at Eastman, Golan seems to be a very intelligent young artist, and I suspect that she is well aware of what an unconventional interpretation she is presenting. Though it falls into the trap of losing its sense of direction, her reading of the first movement is illuminating in many ways, revealing an extraordinary richness of textural detail. The second and third movements are handled with appropriate delicacy and sensitivity, but her finale lacks sufficient propulsive power and intensity to achieve the desired effect.

However, as might be expected, Golan’s reading of the 1959 Nocturne is exquisitely delicate and poetic. Indeed, I have never heard the piece in a lovelier rendition. Golan is also successful with the problematic late work, Ballade, imparting a wide range of subtle nuances into this Scriabin-like mood piece, which so few pianists seem able to bring to life. Golan’s artistry is abetted by the extraordinarily fine sound quality captured at the New England Conservatory, where the recording, released on the Albany label, was made.

Koch International presents the Texan pianist John Owings in an intriguing concept recital that features the three major American piano sonatas of the 1940s: those by Barber, Copland, and Carter. To round out our little survey of recent attempts to master the Barber sonata, Owings’s effort might be regarded as the most conventional and middle-of-the-road. In fact, it adds nothing to one’s understanding or appreciation of the work, although it is successfully executed on its own terms. However, one factor that diminishes my enjoyment of the entire disc is the distant aural perspective captured on the recording, which was done at Texas Christian University, where Owings is a member of the faculty. Owings is obviously a more-than-competent pianist, and though his performance of the Barber is rather routine and uninteresting, he brings an energetic musical intelligence to his readings of the Copland and Carter sonatas. But these works especially are predicated on a bright, crisp, and clear type of piano sonority. Owings’s performances of these two works would probably be more satisfying if they were recorded in a manner that better captured their sonic styles. In fairness, I should allow that sonic ambiance may be viewed as a subjective matter, and other listeners may feel differently.

Aaron Copland completed his Piano Sonata in 1941, around the time of A Lincoln Portrait, Quiet City, and Rodeo. However, unlike those three works in his populist-Americana vein, the Piano Sonata exemplifies the more abstract, personal aspect of his output. For many years the works in the latter group were discussed as if they were rather forbidding, inaccessible, and different in kind from his more populist creations. I would be surprised, however, if listeners failed to hear in this work (and in others of his “serious” pieces) most of the qualities — except, perhaps, for the “wide open spaces” effect — associated with his best-known compositions. Among the remarkable features of the sonata is its use of gestures and chordal sonorities as basic structural elements, rather than conventional motifs and themes. Another is its almost unbearably kinetic treatment of rhythm — especially irregular, unpredictable, “additive,” rather than regular, symmetrical, “metric” rhythmic patterns. This highly distinctive adaptation of an approach to rhythm derived directly from Stravinsky is often attributed to Copland’s exposure to jazz, but is so much more elaborate and far-reaching that such a characterization is misleadingly superficial. Copland’s treatment of rhythm, along with his unorthodox approach to piano sonority, heard first in the acerbic Piano Variations of 1930, exerted a tremendous influence on the development of American Neoclassicism. The aspect of the Piano Sonata that is initially most challenging to the listener, however, is not its harmonic or rhythmic complexity, but, rather, the long stretches of slow, spare writing, during which little seems to be going on. These passages may initially be taxing to one’s concentration. However, with increased familiarity they reveal a searching, poignant simplicity and a spare but touching lyricism that balance the more nervous, agitated portions of the work nicely.

Among the pianists drawn to Copland’s Piano Sonata was William Kapell, who included the work on a recital given at New York’s Frick Museum in March, 1953 — less than eight months before the fatal plane crash that ended the pianist’s life at the age of 31. Apparently a broadcast tape of that recital has recently come to light, and has been released by RCA Red Seal with much fanfare. The sound quality of this release is quite good, its chief defect being some faintly audible interference from an adjacent radio station. The sonic ambiance, however, is close and bright, with a very immediate, almost percussive, quality — diametrically opposed to the foggy ambiance heard on the Koch release. As suggested earlier, this bright, close sound is much more suitable to Copland’s conception, although, quite understandably, as an older recording made to document an event, it is less than optimal, verging on a shallow harshness. Kapell plays the work with tremendous nervous tension and extraordinary precision. Although for the most part his rendition captures and aptly projects the sonata’s expressive content, at times the tension underlying his reading seems a little severe and lacking in elasticity.

Discussion of the Copland sonata is incomplete without considering two other recordings currently available. One features Leonard Bernstein, who recorded what he called “my favorite piece of Aaron’s” in 1947. Bernstein had such a profound and intimate affinity for the music of his compositional mentor that his interpretations of Copland’s music are consistently and reliably definitive. At the age of 28 Bernstein was probably at the height of his enthusiasm for Copland’s music and his piano technique might have been at its most fluent. Hence one might expect such a recording to be ideal, and that is pretty much the case — especially as regards the sense of tensile elasticity and kinetic spontaneity one misses in Kapell’s reading. The only shortcomings one might note are the dated sound quality and a less-than-total technical control, which one can expect, after all, from only the very finest full-time pianists.

All of which leads us to the other essential recording of the Copland sonata — from one of the very finest full-time pianists of his generation. As part of its “Great Pianists of the 20th Century” series, Philips has reissued some of Leon Fleisher’s solo recordings—among them the Copland sonata. This is an extraordinary document of piano artistry, fusing keen intelligence, profound musicality, and almost inhuman technical control. The only factor preventing me from terming this rendition “perfect” is its sense of composure; one misses Bernstein’s restless verve and spontaneous exuberance. (Before leaving Fleisher, I must add that Philips’s 2-CD set also includes Liszt’s B-minor Sonata. Fanfare boasts so many Liszt authorities that perhaps I am not entitled to comment on a subject in which I claim no special expertise. Nevertheless, I do consider the Liszt B-minor to be the greatest piano sonata of the 19th century [after Beethoven], and have heard my share of performances. But I have never heard a reading of this work that approaches Fleisher’s in achieving unhindered the fulfillment of an interpretive ideal that reveals the work to be a masterpiece of eloquence and coherence. No admirer of the B-minor Sonata should fail to be acquainted with it.)

Elliott Carter’s Piano Sonata followed Copland’s by five years, and, in many ways, takes the latter as its point of departure. Carter’s approaches to harmony, rhythm, gesture, and piano sonority are essentially derived from Copland, but in this sonata he develops them to far greater levels of contrapuntal density, producing a work that is rich with interest and excitement. In fact, one might argue that the Piano Sonata represents Carter at the height of his authentic powers of musical creativity, before he veered off in directions that better insulated him from direct critical judgment. One might even further argue that Carter’s is the most fully realized of the three American sonatas at the center of this review. Again, John Owings offers a brilliant and energetic reading of the work, for which one’s enthusiasm is dampened only by the aforementioned complaint regarding sonic ambiance.

If one wishes to acquire a recording specifically for the Carter sonata, I would probably recommend Paul Jacobs’s rendition on Elektra/Nonesuch. If one were seeking a recording of the Copland, I would recommend Fleisher. And if one were looking for the best recording of the Barber sonata, I would recommend Boyadjieva. But if one wishes to acquire all three works on one disc, and is not very sensitive to sonic ambiance, then Owings on Koch would be quite adequate.

Let’s return for a moment to the Kapell recital. In addition to the Copland sonata, the pianist offered several Chopin selections, the brief Schumann tidbit, a Scarlatti sonata, and the Pictures at an Exhibition. One must begin by noting that the sound quality that suited the Copland sonata so well is quite inappropriate for the music of Chopin, which sounds as though it is being viewed under a microscope, which is not the best way to view Chopin. Furthermore, in listening to this disc, I couldn’t shake the impression that a few notes on the piano were a tad out-of-tune. Nevertheless, the Op. 61 Polonaise-Fantaisie is heard in a performance that I think many will find quite thrilling. The familiar Scarlatti sonata sounds lovely as well. However, Kapell’s breathlessly urgent and pianistically undaunted traversal of Mussorgsky’s Pictures fails to add luster to what is for me a threadbare war-horse.

Pianist Jeanne Golan entitles her recital on Albany, “American Tonal,” and complements her Barber selections with a very recent work by the 38-year-old Curtis-trained Daron Hagen. This is my first exposure to Hagen’s music, and he appears to be an interesting Post-Modern voice reminiscent of no other composer in particular except, perhaps, Olivier Messiaen. Clearly, Hagen’s notion of tonality is a far more vague concept than Barber’s. Qualities of Light is a 23-minute work in three movements, rather dreamlike and mysterious in tone. The central movement was composed first, and seems to be a rather elaborate set of variations, while creating a somewhat nightmarish effect. The two short outer movements are more peaceful and serve as a sort of frame. The work did not elicit a strong reaction from me, other than openness to hearing more from this composer.  

ARGENTO To Be Sung Upon the Water. Songs about Spring. Six Elizabethan Songs BRITTEN: Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo. Canticle II (Abraham and Isaac) . A. COOKE Three Songs of Innocence. Nocturnes. MOYLAN For a Sleeping Child.

ARGENTO To Be Sung Upon the Water. BRITTEN Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo. Canticle II (Abraham and Isaac) – Ellen Shade (sop) ; John Stewart (ten); Charles Russo (cls); Donald Hassard, Martin Katz (pn) – PHOENIX PHCD-129, analog (60:35 &)

ARGENTO Songs about Spring. Six Elizabethan Songs– Jean Danton (sop); Thomas Stumpf (pn); Chamber Ensemble; C. Thomas Brooks, cond Ÿ  ALBANY TROY-264 (65:18 &)

&  A. COOKE Three Songs of Innocence. Nocturnes. MOYLAN For a Sleeping Child—Lullabies and Midnight Musings For a Sleeping ChildLullabies and Midnight Musings

Though born in Pennsylvania (in 1927), Dominick Argento has been based in Minnesota for many years, his career benefiting significantly from that state’s notably supportive attitude toward its own composers. His music is generally traditional in its materials and syntax and, like many Italian-American composers — Giannini, Menotti, and Pasatieri, for example — Argento has lavished particular attention on operatic and vocal music. Yet, unlike them, Argento has always found favor among critics, even winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. This is probably because, instead of the unfashionably direct and emotionally hard-hitting post-verismo style embraced by them, Argento has pursued a more rarefied, intellectually sophisticated approach, very much like the path followed by Benjamin Britten, as is demonstrated by the juxtaposition of these two composers on a recent Phoenix reissue of performances originally available on Desto LPs. However, also as in the case of the three others noted above, Argento’s discography has never begun to approximate either the scope or the depth of his output.

To Be Sung Upon the Water is a major, half-hour cycle of Wordsworth settings scored for voice, clarinet (sometimes bass), and piano. It was composed in 1972 — just two years before the justly-praised Virginia Woolf settings that won Argento the Pulitzer. The composer selected the verses to form a homage to Nature, although the cycle is conceived as a tribute to Schubert as well, and subtle references to that master permeate the work. The work is not easy listening, by any means, although the music itself is not truly atonal, nor is the harmonic language abrasively dissonant. But the vocal lines do not follow conventional melodic patterns of tonal resolution, as compared with the poignantly ingratiating melodies of Samuel Barber, for example. To appreciate a cycle like this requires a good deal of concentration and a close reading of the texts. Such an investment of attention is rewarded by the gradual realization of some precious moments of insight. The performance offered here is subtle, polished, and searching.

I must confess that I have never been strongly attracted to the rather dry reserve and austere detachment of Benjamin Britten’s compositional persona, although I do appreciate and enjoy a number of his works from the late 1930s through the mid 50s. Both the seven Michelangelo settings and the Canticle II (Abraham and Isaac) date from that period and are fine examples of Britten’s meticulous, sensitive, and highly intelligent musical imagination, while clearly underlining the aesthetic affinity shared with Argento. The Michelangelo settings (sung in Italian, though only English texts are provided) are lean, supple, and quite Italianate, though in the Monteverdi sense rather than the Puccini. In Abraham and Isaac, the influence of Stravinsky’s dry approach to sonority, spareness of texture, and generally constricted sensibility is clearly evident, though these qualities lend a certain eerie detachment that enhances the work’s effect and sets off some lovely moments. Although both Britten works have been available on a number of different recordings, most notably and definitively featuring tenor Peter Pears, the readings offered here are excellent.

The recent Albany CD featuring soprano Jean Danton makes a further contribution to the Argento discography, but has little otherwise to recommend it. Songs About Spring comprise five rather early (1954) and not terribly interesting settings of e.e. cummings poems. These reveal a less individual voice than the composer’s more mature works, reflecting the mainstream American art-song genre of the time, as exemplified by, say, Ned Rorem in his better-known songs.

Six Elizabethan Songs are among Argento’s most frequently performed works, and deservedly so. They were originally composed in 1958 for voice and piano, but a very successful alternate arrangement of the accompaniment for an ensemble of flute, oboe, violin, cello, and harpsichord was made several years later. The crisp delicacy and transparency of this arrangement highlights the “neo-Elizabethan” quality of the music. The settings of poems by Shakespeare and his contemporaries are delightful and quite accessible, airy in texture and light in weight, but rather sophisticated and never trite or slick.

The new Albany release also offers two groups of songs by English composer Arnold Cooke (b. 1906). Both cycles combine a gentle yet straightforward lyricism that strikes me as typically English with some mannerisms clearly traceable to Hindemith, with whom Cooke studied. None of these songs, however, captured my interest or attention.

In addition to composing, William Moylan (b. 1956) is active as a record producer, heading the Recording Center at the University of Massachusetts (Lowell). This disc presents him in both capacities. The group of lullabies featured here was written specifically for Jean Danton and this recording, and is scored for soprano, clarinet, and piano. I am sorry to report that these songs, with their simple melodies and blandly anonymous harmonizations, made virtually no impact whatsoever.

Jean Danton owns an attractive soprano voice and maintains accurate intonation. However, she offers little at all in the way of interpretation, expression, or characterization, leading the disc to become tediously monotonous rather early on. Furthermore, she begins to lose control with any stress away from the midpoint in pitch or volume. The various accompanying instrumentalists fulfill their roles adequately.

CRESTON: Symph. No. 2. String Quartet. Suite for Viola and Piano. VILLA-LOBOS: String Quartet No. 6. IVES: Symph. No. 2. RAVEL: Intro & Allegro. DEBUSSY: Danses Sacree et Profane. HEIDEN: Sonata for Viola and Piano. Music by Rochberg, Turina & Carter.

CRESTON: Symphony No. 2. IVES: Symphony No. 2. Neeme Jarvi conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. CHANDOS CHAN-9390 [DDD]; 56:37. Produced by Ralph Couzens and Charles Greenwell.

CRESTON: String Quartet. VILLA-LOBOS: String Quartet No. 6. RAVEL: Introduction and Allegro. DEBUSSY: Danses Sacree et Profane. TURINA: La Oracion del Torero. Hollywood String Quartet; Ann Mason Stockton, harp; Arthur Gleghorn, flute; Mitchell Lurie, clarinet; Felix Slatkin conducting the Concert Artists String. TESTAMENT SBT-1053 [ADD]; 72:35. Reissue produced by Stewart Brown; originals produced by Richard Jones and Robert Myers.

CRESTON: Suite for Viola and Piano. HEIDEN: Sonata for Viola and Piano. ROCHBERG: Sonata for Viola and Piano. CARTER: Elegy. Lawrence Wheeler, viola; Ruth Tomfohrde, piano. ALBANY TROY-141 [DDD]; 57:13. Produced by John Gladney Proffitt.

The big news here is the new recording of Paul Creston’s Symphony No. 2 — perhaps his most fully consummated work and one of the most distinguished fruits from the bountiful crop of American symphonies that appeared during the 1940s — a crop that also includes Schuman’s Third, Piston’s Second, Copland’s Third, Barber’s Second, and Hanson’s Fourth. What places Creston’s Second near the top of this list is its remarkable individuality and originality. Composed in 1944, the work was first performed by the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Artur Rodzinski, and was subsequently received enthusiastically by audiences throughout the world, until the late 1950s, when American symphonic music largely disappeared from concert programs . The symphony is a bold and uncompromising illustration of Creston’s aesthetic priorities: the primacy of song and dance as the fundamental musical gestures. This manifesto is expressed through a rich and robust language derived from the harmonic colors of Impressionism and the rhythmic emphasis of Le Sacre, and executed with a logical linear clarity stemming from years of reverential study of the works of Bach. Part of what makes Creston’s Second so remarkable is the compositional sleight-of-hand by which its tightly focused developmental metamorphosis of a long-arching twelve-tone theme is embodied within a warm hearted, generously-spirited, kinetically infectious musical shape whose design is sui generis. The effect is spontaneous and immediately engaging, while increasingly satisfying with greater familiarity.

The work is structured in two movements, each divided into two parts. A sensuously long-spun, contrapuntal exposition of the bas: theme is followed by a lush extroverted, full-throated “song” treatment. The strongly contrasting second movement begins with a defiant, ominous “interlude” that leads directly into the “dance, a kind of Creston specialty in which a single theme is developed through an array of improvisatory, jazz-like variations bouncing over syncopated polyrhythmicostinato patterns, finally culminating in an ingenious recapitulation of all significant prior elements. Despite the immediacy of its impact, the work’s appeal is abstract and choreographic, rather than emotional or dramatic.

This is the third commercial recording of Creston’s Second Symphony. The first was a solid reading from the early 1950s, featuring the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Howard Mitchell. That Westminster disc, paired with Creston’s Third, re-appeared in a variety of incarnations for many years the work’s second recording (Koch International 3-7036-2H1 Fanfare 14:6, pp. 143-4) did not appear until 1999. That rendition — part of an all-Creston disc featured the Krakow Philharmonic under the direction of David Amos, and suffered from the Polish orchestra’s inability to grasp the intricacies and nuances of this quintessentially American work, at least within the time available. In this new Detroit Symphony recording Neeme Jarvi moves the first movement along rather briskly, with some loss of the rich, organ-like bass-lines. However, his lighter tread also mitigates some of the movement’s more heavy-handed moments. The second movement is played with considerable precision, the rhythmic intricacies delineated with great transparency.  But the “dance” never really cuts loose and swings into the exuberant Dionysian orgy it is intended to be. The result is a solid, sober performance, considerably more accurate and refined than the Polish reading, but not yet the full realization that the work still awaits.

Creston’s String Quartet is an early work, dating from 1936, before he had arrived at his mature language. At this time Creston’s music was a rather strange amalgam of Baroque textures and patterns and Impressionist harmony. (The String Quartet strongly resembles the as-yet-unrecorded Piano Sonata which followed it sequentially but is a superior work, owing to more individual character and more imaginative material.) The first and last movements are rather mechanical, with little expressive content, while the second movement is a jocular scherzo. The high point of the work is its third movement, a heartfelt “Andante ecclesiastico“, alternately solemn and tender with a poignant warmth. This movement is often played alone in an arrangement for string orchestra, under the title Gregorian Chant (see Fanfare 17:4, p. 168). The tight, accurate, and energetic performance by the Hollywood String Quartet dates from 1953. Unavailable for many years, its reissue is most welcome, since the work has never been recorded since then, although, for some reason, the sound quality, with restricted frequency and dynamic range, seems more primitive for the Creston than for the other pieces on the disc. 

The Albany disc offers the premiere recording of Creston’s Suite for Viola and Piano, Composed only one year after the String Quartet, this work shows a considerable advance in maturity sophistication, and self confidence, exemplifying the warm, good-humored, French style neoclassicism of such rather chamber works as the well-known Saxophone Sonata, the Violin SuiteCello Suite, and Piano Trio. Again the slow movement, entitled “Air,” is the strongest, and is reminiscent of the “Gregorian Chant” movement from the String Quartet. Unfortunately, violist Lawrence Wheeler and pianist Ruth Tomfohrde, play this movement too quickly to fulfill its intended effect, although the remainder of their performance is quite adequate.


The Detroit Symphony disc also contains a rendition of Ives’ Second Symphony. Although I will leave a thorough comparison of recorded performances to James North, my impression is that Jarvi has shaped a solid, European-style reading of the work, emphasizing its roots in the syntax of Brahms and Dvorak, despite exuberant and mischievous intrusions of vernacular elements of Americana.

John Wiser’s comments about the Hollywood String Quartet disc appear in Fanfare18:5 (p. 217). I will add that the remainder of the program presents a most suitable context within which to consider the Creston Quartet. Debussy’s Danses Sacree et Profane and Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro were two of Creston’s favorite pieces, and each exerted a strong and clearly audible influence on his stylistic development. Both Turina and Villa-Lobos also evolved from a Debussy/Ravel stylistic foundation, Turing in a gently Iberian direction and Villa-Lobos toward his own Bach/Impressionist/Brazil amalgamation, as idiosyncratic in its way as Creston’s. In fact, there is a tropical exoticism to some of Creston’s music — the Invocation from the Invocation and Dance — for example — that veers very close to Villa-Lobos’ aesthetic realm — an affinity remarked by other commentators as well. The Brazilian’s 1941 Quartet No. 6 is a lively, tuneful work, with contrapuntal intricacies that add depth to its appeal. These performances, all recorded between 1949 and 1953, are excellent, although many listeners may prefer more luxuriant, modern-sounding recordings of such sensuous music.

The Wheeler-Tomfohrde disc offers a handsome program of American music for viola and piano. Lawrence Wheeler is a professor at the University of Houston School of Music and a member of the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra. His performances are generally competent, but rather cautious and under-characterized, with some passages that suffer from intonation problems.  George Rochberg’s 1979 Viola Sonata is one of his strongest pieces known to me — straightforward and free of gimmicks. It opens with a brisk vigor reminiscent of Hindemith, but contains attractive moments of sweetness arid warmth as well. Alas, Hindemith’s name is never far away when Bernard Heiden’s music is discussed. This is a little sad, because Heiden, active at the University of Indiana for almost half a century, was a highly skillful composer whose music is thoroughly satisfying, in its earnest, contrapuntal manner, from which poetic moments are not altogether absent. But his creative voice seems never to have emerged from behind the mantle of his teacher as this 1959 Sonata illustrates. Elliott Carter’s 1943 Elegy is perhaps better known in its arrangement for string orchestra. Dating from his Coplandesque, populist period, it is attractive and innocuous.