Classics, Eclectic Geophysics—and Bach = BACH: Prelude and Fugue in c, BWV 536 (arr. Leytush); Chaconne from Partita in d, BWV 1004 (arr. Rakhlin/Leytush); HAMPSON SISLER: The Big Bang; Thermals, Rising – Valery Michailuk, organ/ National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/ Arkady Leytush, conductor – MSR 1312, 70:41 [Distr. by Albany] ***:
Leave it to MSR to create unusual and interesting albums. This one features two Bach transcriptions by conductor Arkady Leytush, done in the best Stokowski manner (honestly, they could have been done by him, though we have a direct comparison in the Chaconne, and Stokowski wins) and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine plays them brilliantly. If you think orchestras just knock this kind of thing off after one rehearsal, just take a listen to the multi-box Stokowski set RCA released about 15 years ago. There is a rehearsal of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor with the London Symphony, and they have a terrible time with it! I don’t know how many sessions the NSOU had but they certainly make good work of it.
The meat of this program is dedicated to Hampson Sisler, a composer I did not know, but evidently is being championed by MSR, this being the fourth release featuring his music. These pieces, devoted to a musical depiction of the “Big Bang” (assuming it happened) and to global warming might fit on a “Hearts of Space” program; not that it’s particularly meditative, but the vast canvass Sisler paints on has that hard-to-pin-down but unmistakable coloration of “space” music. Parts of Thermals, Rising reminded me of the soundtrack to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and some of the film music of Bernard Hermann, while The Big Bang avoids the more overtly obvious connotations of the subject and instead focuses on an almost impressionistic portrayal of what is almost impossible to imagine.
Overall this is an interesting disc with a composer whose works merit more attention. Not everyone will take to it, but many will. The sound, like so many MSR discs, sounds to me very analog-like, though always clear and pure, and that will be a plus to many as well.
French Romantic and Impressionism… Ivan Ilich