EDWARD JOSEPH COLLINS: Hibernia (Irish Rhapsody); Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat; Lil’ David Play on Yo’ Harp; Lament and Jig – William Wolfram, piano/ Royal Scottish National Orchestra/ Marin Alsop, conductor – Albany

by | Dec 1, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

EDWARD JOSEPH COLLINS: Hibernia (Irish Rhapsody); Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat; Lil’ David Play on Yo’ Harp; Lament and Jig – William Wolfram, piano/ Royal Scottish National Orchestra/ Marin Alsop, conductor – Albany TROY630, 54:39 ***1/2:

Collins (1886-1951) was a Chicago Irish-American wunderkind whose life by any measure whatsoever must be considered a rousing success. Lauded as a great pianist here and in Europe, appointed by Sousa himself to take over the Army Band, conductor and soloist with many great orchestras, friend of the famous, and caring teacher, he led a life of which many musicians are extremely envious.

But his music is forgotten – though there is much to be pleased with in this collection, and I am sure in the entire set that Albany is planning (though I cannot confirm that all nine volumes were completed by last year as they first indicated), it does not take a great deal of insight to see why this music never made it into the front tier. Much music praised in any era often succumbs over time to the vagaries of public taste and history, and this seems to be what happened with Collins. It is not for me to judge this verdict wrong, but I can easily abide by it.

Much of it has a through-composed feeling to it, with little in terms of traditional developmental structure, and Ravel became an increasingly important influence in Collins’s life. Yet eerily enough, I also hear strange echoes of Shostakovich in parts of the middle movement of his piano concerto (this is the first of three he wrote). That piece, despite its facility for going nowhere and manifest lack of glue to hold the few ideas together, still has a sort of breezy charm and pleasant façade that I like very much but cannot for a moment say why. Hibernia is a little later work that feels more involved orchestrally, but ultimately lacks substance, an also-ran in a large field of such. The two other works are nice trifles, charming in their own way but nothing I look forward to returning to. Perhaps I will grow to like Hibernia more—some things take a lot of exposure, and he writes in a suitable tonal manner that is rather seductive, though devoid of great substance. But I would like to hear the other concertos, and can see myself revisiting this one from time to time.

The sound is a little distant and congested in spots, the orchestra plays relatively well (there are some bloopers, and I would be willing to bet these are first takes), and Alsop has a good feel for the idiom. A worthwhile project, this, and perhaps there are some jewels yet to be found.

— Steven Ritter 
 

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