Fabien Sevitzky Indianapolis Symphony Vol. 5 = HAYDN: L’Isola disabitata – Overture; Symphony NO. 73 in D Major “La Chasse”; GRIEG: Sigurd Jorsalfar – Suite, Op. 56: Prelude and Intermezzo; Peer Gynt – Suite No. 2, Op. 55; Symphonic Dances, Op. 64 – Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra/ Fabien Sevitzky – Pristine Audio PASC 650 (73:28) [www.pristineclassical.com] ****:
Producer and Restoration Engineer Mark Obert-Thorn once more turns to the recorded legacy, 1941-1945, of Fabien Sevitzky (1893-1967) for a fifth installment, of which the Haydn Symphony No. 73 and Grieg complete Symphonic Dances, both from 1945, make delightful additions from RCA. I recall owning the Grieg on the Bluebird label (LBC 1059) and the Haydn on the awkward set of classical 45s (WDM 1312; later on Bluebird LBC 1062), so this restoration has both nostalgic and practical value, especially for future broadcast.
The program opens with the Overture to the Haydn opera L’Isola disabitata (”The Uninhabited Island”) from 29 January 1942. This music had its premiere in 1779, an example of Haydn’s notion of sturm und drang, in which the tumult of an uneasy and sudden landing on a deserted island finds expression in the violent shifts in tempo, dynamics, and rhythmic thrusts in the music, well realized by the Indianapolis musicians. The opera itself only appeared in print in 1976; so, until then, listeners could not know that the middle section’s lighter fare anticipates the happier thoughts of anticipation for adventure expressed by the protagonist, the English Carl Bushy, who has decided to fight in the war of American independence.
Haydn’s Symphony No. 73 ‘La Chasse’ (1781) takes its nickname from the last movement, whose “hunt” motif derives from material for another of his operas, La fedeltà premiata (“Fidelity Rewarded”), composed for the restored opera house at Eszterháza. The opening movement, Adagio – Allegro, features a four-beat motto that sounds like the humorous version of a certain Beethoven impulse. The slow movement Andante, in G Major, borrows from a Haydn lied, Gegenliebe (“Requited Love”), whose martial air lends itself naturally to rondo treatment. Sevitzky and colleagues accord this music a lyrical heft. Haydn, himself a devotee of fox hunting, took a familiar, rollicking tune for his last movement Presto used by prior composers Morin and Philidor that would quickly alert patron Nikolaus Eszterhazy of its earthy intentions. Despite the energetic pomp of this movement, the music dies away quietly.
The remainder of the disc addresses the music of Grieg, ceremonial and nationalistic. The two excerpts from Sigurd Jorsalfar (rec. 8 January 1941) make their first appearance – as does the Overture – since their incarnation on shellac. Sevitzky’s natural sympathy for Grieg makes us wish he had included the fine Homage March. The recording of the second of the suites from Peer Gynt (28 January 1942) meant to complement the recording of Suite One by the Cincinnati Symphony under Eugene Goossens. Personally, I prefer to hear the vocal treatment of Solveg’s Song, but the energy allotted to the other three excerpts proves attractively stylistic. The transparent woodwind, string, and brass work in the Arabian Dance proves instantly fetching.
Grieg’s set of 1898 Symphonic Dances – really Norwegian Folk Dances -certify what Tchaikovsky had noted as “the deeply felt poetical flow of emotions” in this composer whom he admired for the direct accessibility to his audience. Recorded 9 February 1945, Sevitzky negotiates the Norwegian Halling impulse in the first two of the Dances, the first (in G Major) vigorously intense and energetic, the second Allegretto in A Major, softly alluring and an old favorite of one its major acolytes, Sir Thomas Beecham. The third Dance (in D Major) claims Hedmark County as the source of its rustic, spring sensibility. The last of the Dances (in A Minor) has the ominous breadth and alternately lyrical gloss of a Northern ballad, sectionalized, with a Valdres region wedding dance at its center. The color and exotic power of the Indianapolis Symphony has found a natural medium for its expressive capacities, a fine sonic document, beautifully restored.