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Symphonies by
Adolphus Hailstork -
reviewed by

'... right on the ball, clean and clear ...'

Adolphus Hailstork: Symphonies Nos 2 and 3. Grand Rapids Symphony/David Lockington. © 2007 Naxos Rights International

For those unfamiliar with the name, 'Adolphus Hailstork played by the Grand Rapids Symphony' might conjure up the thought of forgotten 19th century Americana -- a rediscovered composer to put alongside Chadwick, MacDowell and Amy Beech perhaps? Nothing like it -- Hailstork is very much with us and is Professor of Music at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Furthermore, he's black, which strongly informs one of these pieces.

Americana it certainly is though, reminders of Copland, Hanson, Bernstein, plenty of minimalists and even Chavez are here, but Hailstork is also his own man. Nor does this music, unlike a lot of 'neotonal' efforts of the past few decades, make one immediately think of film music. Hailstork is a wonderfully colourful and clear orchestrator, his textures uncluttered and structures eminently followable, if sometimes overstretched. This might just restore faith in those who think that all late 20th century music has come to be full of dense, dissonant textures and jagged sounds, and that things like clear lines and lightness of texture have become dirty words, especially in the groves of academe.

Listening to these pieces in the order on disc (3rd symphony first) might have been the wrong thing to do though. The 3rd starts with some nifty work from the trumpet, xylophone and marimba in particular, the quartal flavour bending towards Copland, but moments such as at 3:13, 4:30 [listen -- track 1, 3:13-4:57] and 6:01 which seem to be harbingers of change or points of departure regularly turn out not to be. One is left with the impression of an assemblage of bits, even though the movement is in clear sonata-allegro form. Conductor David Lockington does seem to lose some momentum coming into the recap of the second subject, which dissipates the energy somewhat.

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Copyright © 8 March 2007 Paul Sarcich, London UK


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