Craftsmanship and Spirit
The New Jersey born composer James Cohn is now eighty one and the new recordings of two symphonies from his huge body of work is a welcome introduction for those who are as yet unfamiliar with his music. This is lively, colourful and well crafted work from a composer who was a one time student of Roy Harris, and who holds in great esteem such diverse composers as Franz Schmidt, Victor Herbert and Dvorák.
His 2nd Symphony was completed in 1948 and opens with buoyancy, presenting its well fashioned symphonic material succinctly and, as befits its traditional format, moves directly to a spirited scherzo.
Listen -- Presto (Symphony No 2)
(track 6, 6:22-7:25) © 2008 Naxos Rights International Ltd
After a tranquil Andante that floats beneath a dark and stormy sky, it ends with a persistent finale, rising as a phoenix from the darkness with a reminiscence of Shostakovich's vigour.
Listen -- Allegro con moto (Symphony No 2)
(track 8, 3:19-4:19) © 2008 Naxos Rights International Ltd
The 7th Symphony has a rather lighter touch, described by the composer as a group of four landscape paintings. It dates from 1967 and begins with rhythmic urgency
Listen -- Allegro giusto (Symphony No 7)
(track 1, 0:01-1:04) © 2008 Naxos Rights International Ltd
before a more pensive Andante, an energetic Allegretto and a purposefully driven final movement, Molto presto e precipitato through which shines a mysterious sense of humour.
Listen -- Molto presto e precipitato (Symphony No 7)
(track 4, 0:00-0:59) © 2008 Naxos Rights International Ltd
The CD also includes Variations on 'The Wayfaring Stranger', a memorial to two dear friends who died within weeks of each other in 1960. Its basis is a song sung in the American South at the end of religious camp meetings. There is also a brief concert Waltz originally scored for a brass ensemble, remade as a piano piece and, in this 1962 version, recomposed as for orchestra. There seems to be an unmistakable and attractive American breadth and flavour to this music, not difficult to place as mid-century, and rewarding in its sound craftsmanship and spirit.
Copyright © 10 May 2009
CD INFORMATION: JAMES COHN SYMPHONIES 2 AND 7
SLOVAK RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
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