by Donald Tovey -
STEPHEN FRANCIS VASTA
'... the Malmö Opera Orchestra plays handsomely for George Vass.'
The blurb on this Toccata Classics release perhaps does its composer and music a disservice, citing stylistic influences and foreshadowings of Brahms, Bruckner, Schumann, Reger, Mahler, Nielsen, and Elgar! That implausible potpourri made me recall the comment of the late Alfred Frankenstein, a perceptive if cranky San Francisco-based critic, that conductors know too much of other people's music to be able to write anything worthwhile of their own. Sir Donald Francis Tovey, to the best of my knowledge, was not a conductor, but as the author of the esteemed Essays on Musical Analysis -- which have stayed in print, in some form or another, for the best part of a century -- he, as composer, might well have been susceptible to the same syndrome.
In fact, Tovey's 1915 symphony isn't the derivative mishmosh suggested by the advertising copy; the score, while clearly rooted in the harmonic patterns and musical gestures of the late Romantic, speaks in a distinctive voice. The occasional flashes of Sibelius and Nielsen can probably be attributed more to a commonality of Northern temperaments (British and Scandinavian) than to the composer's assumption, conscious or otherwise, of any particular stylistic tics of theirs...
Copyright © 23 October 2010
Stephen Francis Vasta,
New York, USA