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Music By Nicolas Flagello


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding American Late-Romantic Music by Nicolas Flagello April 25 2007
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The music of Nicolas Flagello (1928-1994) has been having something of a renaissance in recent years after many years of shameful neglect. He is a member of that group of American Romantics that includes such composers as Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti and was a master of lyricism, expressive emotional content and form. This disc of orchestral music (including six orchestral songs) contains convincing exemplars of his abilities. It is largely thanks to musicologist Walter Simmons, an expert on the music of Flagello and the producer of this disc, that this recording came about. Simmons supplied the very helpful booklet notes. The National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, a veteran of recordings of twentieth century American orchestral music, is conducted sensitively by John McLaughlin Williams, a specialist in Romantic American music. The music is presented in roughly chronological order of their composition from the 1951 'Symphonic Aria' to the two arias 'Polo I and II' from 1979 and 1980.

The big piece here is Flagello's Violin Concerto, played by Elmar Oliveira who had recorded the composer's 'Credendum' on an earlier disc. Written in 1956 but because there seemed to be no interest in it, it was never orchestrated. The Flagello estate asked composer/editor Anthony Sbordoni to orchestrate it and he has done a masterful job. The concerto is in the usual three movements. I is based primarily on a minor key theme introduced initially by lightly accompanied violin; its dominating interval is a falling fourth. Oliveira plays the movement's fearsomely difficult cadenza with aplomb. II is an example of Flagello's special ability for writing ineffably sad and lyrical slow movements -- on this recording that description also fits the 'Symphonic Aria' and the interlude from his operas 'Mirra' and 'The Sisters' as well as several of the songs. ('The Sisters', I've just learned, will be staged at Hunter College next month, its first production since the early 1960s. Involved in the production are Susan Gonzalez, the soprano heard on this disc, who is singing a role as well as staging the Hunter College production, and the aforementioned Anthony Sbordoni. I wish I could attend it as I find the heart-breakingly beautiful Interlude from this opera to be my favorite selection on this disc. Its delicate bitonal splashes of woodwind color cause a frisson every time I hear them.) The concerto's third movement is a brilliant rondo which is both stunningly virtuosic and emotionally expressive. Oliveira conveys both the sadness of II and the brilliance of I and III with musical assurance and eloquence.

There are two orchestral movements from the 1955 opera 'Mirra': the previously mentioned Interlude and a wildly frenzied 'Dance' vaguely reminiscent of similar movements by Bartók or Stravinsky.

After the Violin Concerto come the six orchestral songs. 'The Rainy Day', is set to Longfellow's familiar poem containing the famous concluding lines, 'Into each life some rain must fall / Some days must be dark and dreary'. 'The Brook' (1958) sets poetry by Tennyson. The line 'I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance' reminds one of a similar passage in the Act IV quintet in Barber's 'Vanessa' ('To leave, to break, to find, to keep') written the same year. 'Ruth's Aria' from Flagello's final opera 'Beyond the Horizon' based on the O'Neill play is another lament: 'I now know what I did not know before: / The wounds of mind, and heart, and soul'. Gonzalez's communication of the emotions of this and the other arias is a marvel of vocal acting.

The disc concludes with three more orchestral songs. 'Canto' is a dramatic, anguished scena set to Flagello's own Italian text. 'Polo I' and 'Polo II' -- we are told that a 'polo' is a 'genre of flamenco song of Arabian origin' -- are songs of farewell to life and love. These, too, are sung marvelously by Gonzalez in Sbordoni's brilliant orchestrations.

On the booklet's cover is a beautiful painting by Flagello himself! Full texts are provided for the songs. One cannot offer praise high enough for the music and the performances on this disc, a shining example of the loving presentation of the highest order of works by a composer whose fame and acclaim can only grow as a result.

Strongly recommended.

Scott Morrison

See also Nicolas Flagello: Piano Concerto No. 1; Dante's Farewell; Concerto Sinfonico & Flagello: Symphony 1 / Sea Cliffs
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Important American Violin Concerto Nov. 25 2007
By Thomas F. Bertonneau - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Violinist Elmar Oliveira has taken up the case for the music of Nicolas Flagello (1928 - 1994), an American master whose work fell afoul of snobbish critical disapproval in the last two decades of his life; a lack of performances - and the paucity of recordings - prevented Flagello from developing an audience, which his accessible, dramatic, tuneful music undoubtedly would have done for him given greater exposure. The same story applies to a number of compositional conservatives of the mid-Twentieth Century American tradition, such as Paul Creston and Vittorio Giannini. Writer and musicologist Walter Simmons has given an in-depth vindication of Flagello, Creston, Giannini, and others in his recent Voices in the Wilderness (still available from Amazon.com), which I recommend. The item at hand, however, is the Artek CD-program, featuring Flagello's Violin Concerto (1956) and eight other shorter works, of which Simmons is the producer. Flagello wrote two symphonies, so-called, of which the first is the most impressive; his concerted scores tend also to be "symphonic" in conception, most notably in the late Concerto Sinfonico (1968) for Saxophone quartet and orchestra. It was the British composer Robert Simpson, I believe, who defined symphonic style (in so many words) as the large-scale integration of harmony, melody, rhythm, and color in an orchestral score such that, from the first bar, listeners have a sense of traveling with a purpose - with a destination before them that can be no other. Simpson's definition applies to Flagello and more particularly it applies to the Violin Concerto, set forth in the classical pattern of three movements, fast, slow, and fast. But even the middle-movement Andante is designated "con moto." The surrounding movements are "Allegro Giusto" and "Allegro Comodo." This is muscular, masculine music, "concerted" in the combative sense with the soloist pitched in a contentious dialogue with the orchestra that finds resolution at last in the third-movement coda. The robustness never militates against a genuine lyricism. Flagello reminds us in just about every bar that he stood in the line of Italianate Bel-Canto melody making. A benchmark of the American violin concerto is, of course, Samuel Barber's. Flagello's Concerto can stand up to Barber's. Anyone who is fond of the Barber concerto will respond readily to the Flagello concerto. In my laical opinion, for what it is worth, Flagello's score exceeds Barber's in maturity of conception and symphonic gesture. Anthony Sbordoni's orchestration of Flagello's short-score rises to the challenge of idiomatic persuasiveness. Oliveira's playing sounds utterly committed. The shorter works are a "Symphonic Aria" (1951), an "Interlude and Dance" from the opera Mirra (1955), an "Interlude" from the opera The Sisters (1958), and six songs with orchestra, all sung by soprano Jill Gomez. The orchestral pieces are comparable with items on a similar scale by Creston, Barber, and others. The "Symphonic Aria" provides a case in point, describing a lyrically supercharged crescendo-decrescendo pattern with an effective climax at the top of the arch. The songs whet the appetite for a full recording of one of the operatic scores. In sum, this is an important entry in the discography non-academic Twentieth Century American music.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful and powerful Sept. 17 2012
By scholarboy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I hear echoes of Puccini, Hanson and Barber. So, did Nicolas Flagello have a completely "authentic" voice? Well, perhaps not-but who cares when music like this is so emotionally satisfying, as well as well-constructed. The mid-twentieth century ideological constraints of serialism, atonality and dissonance are nowhere to be found. Flagello's music is late romanticism but tinged with some unique harmonic and chordal structures that make it evocative and distinctive. That's not to say I am going to throw out my Schoenberg, Sessions or Elliot Carter, but this is very wonderful music. The recording is quite atmospheric, and the orchestra, conductor, and soloists are very committed.
Five Stars Aug. 31 2014
By bayou ben - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
beautiful interludes two from his operas. Outstanding music.


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