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Orchestrated Boldly

Music by
Hampson Sisler,
reviewed by

MSR Classics    MS 1229

The Cosmic Divide - Orchestral Music of Hampson Sisler. © 2007 MSR Classics

The Cosmic Divide is a suite of short orchestral links between readings from the Book of Revelation, originally composed by organist and choral conductor Hampson Sisler and orchestrated by the conductor Arkady Leytush. It was first performed in 2000.

The music may illustrate to a point the preceding verses, though it is not clear how the music achieves any overall cohesion and, with such brevity, how it is meant to provide greater breadth to the texts.

Listen -- Revelation 12:3 and Fantasia: Heads and Horns of the Dragon
(track 8, 0:00-0:13 and track 9, 0:00-0:33) © 2007 MSR Classics

There are six Biblical extracts (read by Rev Douglas Grandgeorge) each followed by an orchestral comment of about two minutes, the final Rondo with Variations 'Hymn to the Lamb' being longer at just over four minutes.

Listen -- Rondo with Variations: Hymn to the Lamb
(track 17, 0:00-1:12) © 2007 MSR Classics

Yet this great opportunity for symphonic structural solidity is missed in favour of incidental improvisatory textures. Of the Four Impromptus based on chorale melodies, orchestrated boldly though not always with great subtlety, the Toccata (fourth) on the Agincourt Song is a striking piece.

Listen -- Toccata (Four Impromptus)
(track 4, 0:00-0:59) © 2007 MSR Classics

There is also a Rondo Symphonique, Fugue and Epilogue, a single movement concerto for organ and orchestra first heard in 2004 which certainly ends with some bravura.

Listen -- Epilogue (Rondo Symphonique, Fugue and Epilogue)
(track 5, 14:39-15:53) © 2007 MSR Classics

And there is a short piece called Tsunami, described as 'a highly descriptive work that depicts the awesome power of the ocean ...' and an orchestration of Rachmaninov's Russian Song, one of his early piano duet pieces. The Leytush orchestrations do however seem more resourcefully competent than the Sisler compositions.

Copyright © 13 September 2008 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


The Cosmic Divide - Orchestral Music of Hampson Sisler

MS 1229 DIGITAL Stereo FIRST RELEASE 63'08" 2007 Hampson A Sisler

Valery Michailuk, organ; Rev Douglas Grandgeorge, narrator; The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine; Arkady Leytush, conductor

Hampson A Sisler (born 1932): Four Impromptus (Contemplation; Chorale; Reverie; Toccata); Rondo Symphonique, Fugue and Epilogue; The Cosmic Divide, inspired by passages from The Book of Revelation, King James version (Narration - Rev 12:1; Introduction and Fugue: ' Sun, Moon and Crown of Twelve Stars'; Narration - Rev 12:3; Fantasia: 'Heads and Horns of the Dragon'; Narration - Rev 12:7-8; Toccata: 'The Archangel, the Prince'; Narration - Rev 13:1; Passacaglia: 'The Seven Blasphemies'; Narration - Rev 13:11, 13:14; Sonata Form: 'Deceiving Wonders'; Narration - Rev 14:1-3; Rondo with Variations: 'Hymn To the Lamb'); Tsunami; Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943): Russian Song Op 11 No 3 (all selections orchestrated by Arkady Leytush)


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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews