JOHN MCCABE: Concerto for Orchestra; The Chagall Windows; MALCOLM ARNOLD: Philharmonic Concerto – London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Georg Solti, Bernard Haitink, conductors – LPO

by | Dec 23, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

JOHN MCCABE: Concerto for Orchestra; The Chagall Windows; MALCOLM ARNOLD: Philharmonic Concerto – London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Georg Solti, Bernard Haitink, conductors – LPO 0023, 69:42 *** [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:

The McCabe pieces here are given their world (Concerto) and London (Chagall) premieres, the first by Solti and the second by Haitink, who also conducts the Arnold Concerto—these recorded live in 1983, 1976, and 1975, respectively. While I have found much to admire in some of McCabe’s music, I must confess that the Concerto for Orchestra leaves me cold. A concerto must have more than just a showoff factor to it, and the varied movements are too diffuse and disjointed to offer any sort of latch for which the listener can gain a foot hold.  The Chagall Windows, based on the famous stained glass windows at the Hadasseh-Hebrew University in Jerusalem by artist Marc Chagall, is much more pointed and particular in its imagery, and McCabe’s bordering-on-atonal language seems capable of presenting the visual imagery in satisfactory aural methods, though at 30 minutes the thing does begin to drag somewhat.

The most interesting piece here is Malcolm Arnold’s Philharmonic Concerto, a brilliant display piece that challenges every section of the orchestra, though the LPO of that day often does not seem up to meeting that challenge, with some notably sloppy and insecure playing in many spots. But in the end the music wins out, and Arnold’s idiom proves irresistible in the final analysis. The sound is generally very good, though a little foggy in the McCabe Concerto. If you are a fan of John McCabe, this issue is mandatory because of the concerto and Solti’s manic conducting of it, while Chagall has many worthy moments and the Arnold is a very fine piece. For me, I am left lukewarm, but will not project my prejudices on those with more establish feelings in the matter. For many this will prove an important release.

— Steven Ritter    

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