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Hailstork's 2nd Symphony is a tougher, more consistent piece of work, the second and fourth movements being a reaction to a trip the composer took to Ghana, where he saw the dungeons where slaves were kept before being transported to the USA. The first movement certainly shows more sense of connectedness between the ideas, and organic growth. There is a much more intriguing mixing and working out of ideas than in the 3rd Symphony, and Hailstork shows he knows how to balance silence, stillness and activity. Probably the most rewarding listening on the disc.

Again, a long slow movement follows, a beautifully measured buildup from the opening cor anglais solo, with atmospheric low strings and log drums, has unfortunately dissipated by 3:12, leading to a rather meandering passage before the cor anglais returns. Perhaps I was wrong to expect the big statement here (that comes at 6:00) but when you can write a buildup as good as that, why not cap it? It is certainly though a deeper piece of work than the slow movement of Symphony 3.

Another short Scherzo follows, more consistent than the 3rd's but formed on rather ordinary repeated rhythms -- Hailstork's scherzi seem not to be his strongest point. Listening from 4:21 to the end will give you the idea [track 7 -- 4:20-4:38].

Another atmospheric opening to the finale [listen -- track 8, 0:00-1:59], followed by plenty of activity but again, it's difficult to get hold of anything truly substantial. Some vaguely Martinu-like textures take it through to 4:38, where a flowing, lyrical set of ideas form. I wanted this to go on and develop much more, rather than break at 5:21 into the rather commonplace trombone tune which follows. Similarly at 7:46 another buildup begins, to a big brass chord at 8:41, but this is robbed of importance by the music drifting off somewhere else again (back to Martinu!). The ending is noisy and busy, without really seeming to be justified in being so. All that being said, this Symphony is clearly the more substantial of the two.

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Copyright © 8 March 2007 Paul Sarcich, London UK


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