American Serenades = VICTOR HERBERT: Serenade for Strings, Op. 12; ARTHUR FOOTE: Serenade for Strings, Op. 25; Suite in E, Op. 63 – London Octave/ Kypros Markou, conductor – Dutton

by | Feb 24, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

American Serenades = VICTOR HERBERT: Serenade for Strings, Op. 12; ARTHUR FOOTE: Serenade for Strings, Op. 25; Suite in E, Op. 63 – London Octave/ Kypros Markou, conductor – Dutton 7238, 68:51 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Dublin-born Victor Herbert (1859-1924) was one of the most significant musicians of the early American burgeoning music scene, establishing himself as a serious composer but also one who brought the operetta to ends rather inglorious only to embrace its conqueror—the American musical. As a conductor he was second to none, elevating orchestras like the Pittsburg Symphony to top rank heights and continuing to be a Jack-of-all-trades in the music world. His music or at least his serious stuff has pretty much died out with the exception of the Second Cello Concerto which gets an occasional hearing, and quite frankly the music is so stuffed with a bicycle-in-the-park feeling to it that there is no wonder. Even this work here, his Serenade for Strings, has some memorable melodies but lacks the kind of substantive fare to compete with other things happening at the time. I enjoyed this, but wouldn’t miss it if I never heard it again.

Arthur Foote’s music is another animal altogether. Foote (1853-1937), New England born and bred, was a profoundly serious composer who made no less than seven trips to Europe in 20 years, and even attended the very first Bayreuth Festival. Hearing The Ring had quite an impact on him, and his music reflects a Wagnerian sentiment heard through more American ears, with its sparseness and clear formal structures, though his harmonies can sound almost impressionist within this classically-defined sculpture.

Both of these works are beautifully constructed around Baroque models, but this is a formality—Foote is his own man all the way, borrowing from sources as diverse as Brahms and Bach, and the results are very pleasing. This is truly a composer who deserves a serious and thorough rehabilitation.

The London Octave draws on members (primarily) of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and the English Chamber Orchestra, and generally plays very well in a somewhat reverberant acoustic. I like the idea that Dutton is turning to the States after what they have done for the home front, and hope they keep up the good work!

— Steven Ritter  

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