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The Utah forces also play William Schuman's Symphony No 7 -- a 1960 Boston Symphony commission. Schuman is often described as a 'very distinguished' composer, which has been something of a kiss-of-death for his popular reputation. This work is not as involving as his glorious 3rd Symphony but it is of a piece with what is most valuable in his musical voice. The opening Largo is a brooding, portentous movement with a typical harmonic vagueness. The playing is good at retaining a sense of line even when the music becomes fairly wayward. There is a Cantabile intensamente for strings alone which grows from a small thematic germ into an arching, aching threnody that might find a European counterpart in the music of someone like Karl Amadeus Hartmann or even Lutoslawski's Funeral Music [listen -- CD1 track 11, 0:00-0:55]. The finale is a fizzy, dancing affair with a busy percussion section enjoying the composer's rhythmic inventiveness. You can imagine it all being played more convincingly by a crack orchestra, of course, but this will do fine.

The second CD moves us on a few years to the 1967 Symphony No 6 of Howard Hanson -- another NYPO commission; dedicated to Bernstein but premièred in a performance conducted by the composer. Those who are most fond of this composer for the heart-on-sleeve romanticism which reached its apogee in the 2nd Symphony might be a touch disappointed -- but only a touch -- by the more restrained lyricism of this later work. It is also worth remembering that Gerard Schwarz with his Seattle forces on the Delos label, serve this music with considerably more power and passion than Siegfried Landau and the Westchester Symphony Orchestra do here. That said, this is far from unacceptable. The first scherzo movement could be more sprightly and much more (as the composer demands) 'sardonic' but the pivotal Adagio is good on the unabashed tenderness that Hanson does best even if you itch, understandably, for a glossier sound [listen -- CD2 track 3, 4:50-5:51].

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Copyright © 3 February 2002 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, Sussex, UK







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