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Gunther Schuller's Symphony 1965 is played by its première forces : the Dallas Symphony Orchestra under Donald Johanas and, as far as one can judge without a score, it's a cracker. This, however, is music from a very different mould from that of the rest in the compilation. This is serious serialism and, to prove it, we are given the composer's exhaustive (exhausting?) notes explaining the nature of his concern to combine avant-garde compositional techniques (12 note rows etc.) with such a traditional musical form as the symphony. If you can handle the larger orchestral canvases of Schoenberg's opus 16 or Berg's opus 6, for example, there is nothing too frightening here. A lot of the music is stimulating, indeed expressive enough to insinuate itself subcutaneously. I have been very glad to listen to this piece several times but I may, now, put it away for (quite) a while [listen -- CD2 track 9, 0:00-0:51].

After that, the final work will come as balm or bathos according to taste. Edward MacDowell's Indian Suite dates from the early 1890s and so is, of course, contemporaneous with Dvorák's New World Symphony. There are some Bohemian flavours in the MacDowell mix and some undoubted skills of orchestration but, beyond that, it doesn't compare well with the Dvorák. MacDowell actually uses genuine Indian melodies. The idea of an Iroquois 'scalp dance' might have you reaching for the paracetamol, but the music definitely won't! It's all quite charming and tuneful if, in the last resort, unmemorable. The Westphalian Symphony Orchestra with Siegfried Landau again may not, of course, be the work's greatest champions.

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







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