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The music of David Gaines -
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'... bright and clear ...'

The music of David Gaines. © 2001 MMC Recordings Ltd

Whilst it might be expected that the thirty-four-minute Symphony of David Gaines would be a more commanding experience than his Euphonium Concerto, it is the reverse that seems to be the case. The altogether cohesive challenge of a symphony, demanding, as it should, an economy of musical material and an alert ingenuousness applied to its manipulation and development, is missing in a work that has an array of colourful ideas and some very imaginative orchestration. Its subject is Esperanto, the oldest of the little group of artificial international languages, invented in 1887 by a Polish physician, Ludwig Zamenhof who gave it his hopeful pen-name.

Each of the four movements has an Esperanto text, on this CD sung by the American mezzo Kymball Wheeler. The first is taken from Zamenhof's 1910 speech to the Sixth World Conference in Washington; the following two are respectively poems by Marjorie Boulton and Penka Papazova; and the final movement is set to one of the composer's own poems. The intention is splendid, but the whole work seems so overloaded with its ideals that it finds difficulty in actually taking off at any point. This is most evident in the second movement, described as having 'a sense of animation and urgency' which feels more like merrymaking under duress.

It is perhaps the third movement, which acknowledges a debt to Gorecki of the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, that is, in its haunting atmosphere, the most successful part of the work. Here the large orchestra and its extensive percussion outlay is used judiciously to produce an eerie subdued support for 'The heart hears what the cosmos has to say . . .' [listen -- track 6, 8:28-9:25].

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Copyright © 1 January 2003 Patric Standford, West Yorkshire, UK


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