IRELAND: Complete Organ Works: Marcia Popolare. Elegy (arr. Alec Rowley).
Susum Corda. Alla Marcia. Elegiac Romance. Capriccio. Holy Boy (A Carol
of the Nativity). Miniature Suite (Intrada/Villanella/Menuetto). Meditation
on John Keble's Rogationtide Hymn. Cavatina. Epic March (arr. Robert Gower).
KOECHLIN: Sonata for Piano and Viola, Op. 53. Quatre Petites
Pieces. JONGEN: Concertino for Viola and Piano, Op. 111. Introduction
Op. 102. Andante Espressivo. Allegro Appassionato, Op. 79.
ARGENTO: Jonah and the Whale
John Ireland (1879-1962) is best known to collectors for a few small-scale symphonic works, songs and choral works, but he also composed music for the organ, and this new Chandos SACD contains all of it. It's surprising there isn't more of it, as the Ireland was a fine organist and the instrument was important to him. The longest work is Elegaic Romance composed in 1902 and revised more than a half-century later. The powerful 1942 Epic March, written for orchestra with a large part for the organ, here is heard in a transcription for solo organ by Robert Gower. Stefan Kagl plays of of this music on the large Herforder Münster Organ; the huge sound of the instrument has been vividly captures by the Chandos engineers. An outstanding release in every way.
Melba has another class release with Volupté, the title of their SACD featuring violist Roger Benedict and pianist Timothy Young. Volupté seems an odd title for this well-filled (68:3) disk of music by Koechlin and Jongen and there hardly is anything sensuous of voluptuous about any of it. The viola is quite neglected as a solo instrument although Berlioz featured it in Harold in Italy; however it plays a very important part in the orchestra providing rich textures to the other strings. Roger Benedict, who is Principal Viola of the Sydney Symphony, is a highly regarded teacher and solo performer, and his playing could not be bettered. As usual with Melba, recorded sound is exemplary.
Pennsylvania-born Dominick Argento (1927) is best-known for his writing in lyric opera (Postcard from Morocco, Miss Havisham's Fire, The Masque of Angels), and his song cycles, particularly Six Elizabethen Songs and From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1975. Argento has written a number of choral works including Jonah and the Whale commissioned in 1973 by the Plymouth Congregational Church and the Cathedral Church of St. Mark for a choral organization now known as VocalEssence. Johna and the Whale was inspired by a 15th century painting by Albertus Pictor on the ceiling of a church in Härkeberga, Sweden. In the program notes the composer defines his approach to the subject, and Michael McHaghie's detailed program notes are helpful. The narrative sections are read by Thomas Oakes, Jonah is sung by tenor Daniel Norman, and bass Daniel Cole is the Voice of God. The Providence Singers and Boston Modern Orchestra Project conducted by Andrew Clark present a convincing case for this oratorio, and the SACD sound is superb. Jona and the Whale is scored for the unusual combination of three trombones, three percussion, piano, organ, and harp. These instruments, as recorded in the resonant acoustics of Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Maine, produce an impressive sound. Complete texts are provided. It's unfortunate more choral music of Argento wasn't included; this CD plays for well less than an hour.
R.E.B. (May 2010)