Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dohnanyi from Tallahassee

From August 9, 2014:

Before coming across this disc I knew Florida State University as the American home of the great physicist Paul Dirac, who spent the last decade of his life in Tallahassee. Now I know that FSU attracted another world-class talent, the composer Erno Dohnanyi, who also spent his last decade there, as composer-in-residence until 1960. Oh yes, I just remembered something else I know about FSU: the Seminoles beat the Auburn Tigers for the National NCAA Men’s Football Championship last January.

This disc has home-field advantage: it features the Florida State University Orchestra under conductor Alexander Jimenez. The symphony is in the full- if not over-blown Romantic idiom of the mid-19th Century. Its themes are lofty and its architecture is grandiose, though the construction is careful. Indeed, the composer completely overhauled the work in the mid-50s, reining it in from an hour to only 50 minutes. It all seems exceptionally well-argued, if at times a bit bland. That’s not to say there aren’t felicitous bits; I loved Dohnanyi’s presentation of the Bach theme he uses for his final movement variations. And the mocking Burla third-movement is often a lot of fun.

As to interpretation and orchestral playing, this disc comes a close second to the mid-1990s Chandos disc with the BBC Philharmonic under Matthias Bamert. The Chandos disc has a more substantial filler in the marvellous Symphonic Minutes, though the Naxos disc’s Two Songs are lovely, and baritone Evan Thomas Jones is excellent. The sound in both discs is excellent. I wonder if Naxos will record the first Symphony with the FSU Orchestra & Jimenez, to go up against another excellent Chandos/BBC/Bamert disc.

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