PERSICHETTI: Serenade No. 5 for Orchestra, Op. 43; Symphony for Strings (Symphony No. 5), Op. 61; Symphony No. 8, Op. 106 (1967)

by | May 19, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

PERSICHETTI: Serenade No. 5 for Orchestra, Op. 43; Symphony for Strings (Symphony No. 5), Op. 61; Symphony No. 8, Op. 106 (1967)

Robert Whitney conducts Louisville Orchestra Jorge Mester conducts Louisville Orchestra (Sym. No. 8)
First Edition FECD -0034 57:42 (Distrib. Albany)****:

The Louisville Orchestra occupies a special place in the history of
American music, commissioning as well as performing pieces by
contemporary composers to create a body of work mostly American and
expressive of our country’s diverse national vision, but no less
indicative of other national trends. In 1948 Orchestra board president
Charles P. Farnsley decided to reduce the orchestra to 50 players.
Beginning in 1950, the Louisville Orchestra ceased spending significant
monies on imported soloists in traditional staples; instead, it
commissioned five new works per season, inviting major participation
from compositional talents such as Thomson, Schuman, Harris, Martinu,
Hindemith, Chavez, Foss, Ginastera, Carter, Hovhaness, Riegger, Mennin,
Dello Joio, Tcherepnin, and Villa-Lobos. Producer Howard Scott of CBS
helped supervise the LP incarnations of Louisville premiers. From 1954
through 1959 Scott and the Louisville ensemble under maestros Whitney
and Mester gave 116 world premiers by 101 composers. The present disc
of Vincent Persichetti compositions derive from inscriptions made
1954-1970, two of which – the Serenade and Symphony No. 5 – being
commissions by the Louisville Orchestra.

Persichetti’s short Serenade No. 5 (1950) is a six-movement suite in
contemporary “olden style,” with tempo indications in English. Both
tonal and modal in syntax, the piece has an immediate sonic appeal and
lively, brassy and percussive energy, neither of which touches the
darker corners of the psyche. More contrasting and disturbed in its
visions is the Symphony No. 5 for Strings (1953), which occasionally
intimates moments from Britten, Richard Strauss, and Bartok. In one
movement, the piece subdivides into five sections, all of which derive
from viola materials in the opening bars. The last two movements,
Andante and Allegro, are angular and darkly sinewy, with a clear
evocation of Bartok and a touch of Bernard Hermann.

The Symphony No. 8 is a big, four movement work, utilizing traditional,
classical procedures that might have taken their cue from Haydn, or
from Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony. Equally lyric and declamatory, the
first movement has a plain-spoken style that might imitate
Persichetti’s Ohio roots and its most famous acting voice, that of
Richard Basehart. The Andante sustention is relatively introspective,
with woodwind riffs that evoke something of Barber via James Agee. The
Allegretto could be a response to Mahler with slightly gaudy, rustic
eruptions from the tuba. The concluding Vivace possesses the brightest
colors, which seem to have brightened as the music evolved. Percussion
and cymbal rule, the music’s enjoying a buoyant character that works to
a powerful conclusion. Solid Americana in good mono sound (stereo for
Symphony No. 8) from the company and players who virtually invented it.

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