War. Tough subject these days - tough subject since the beginning of time. Yet Americans tend to mend wounds and gradually allow the atrocities of yesteryear to fade into coated cases that signal more memories of 'how things used to be' rather than learning from the tragedies with which war has scarred the planet. National Public Radio issued this excellent memoir at the turn of the millennium and one wonders if it now has the same response that greeted it in 1999.
Linda Kobler reconstituted this mix of classical and popular music with a keen sense of history. The CD is twice divided (in both the classical and the popular music) into 'Before the War' 1901 - 1917, 'During the War' 1917 - 1922, and 'After the War' 1922 - 1928. In the first era are the works of Elgar ('Pomp and Circumstance'), Strauss (a waltz from 'Der Rosenkavalier'), Mahler (excerpt from 'Das Lied von der Erde'), and Debussy ('La Mer') joining the songs 'Shine On Harvest Moon' and 'Alexander's Ragtime Band'. The War period is represented by Prokofiev's 'Symphony No. 1', Stravinsky's 'L'histoire du soldat', and Ravel's 'Le tombeau de Couperin' in tandem with 'Over There'. After the war include Stravinsky ('Pulcinella Suite'), Schoenberg (Waltz from 'Five Piano Pieces'), Berg (excerpt from 'Wozzeck') and Copland ('Music from the Theatre') with popular songs 'How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm', 'The Man I Love', and 'West End Blues'.
The excerpts selected for this survey are exceptionally good: orchestras include NY Phil, LA Phil, Philadelphia Orchestra, London Symphony, and the Columbia Symphony under such batons a Ormandy, Bernstein, Salonen, Tilson Thomas, Schippers and Stravinsky; soloists include Glen Gould, Robert Casadesus, Lili Chookaskian, Louis Armstrong, et al. The sonics are very fine and the performances are each from significant full recordings remaining in the catalogue.
The booklet accompanying this concert of memories is written by Linda Kobler who uses each selection as a pivotal point in the atmosphere of the globe that accompanied the Great War: it is very well written and informative. This is one of those recorded collections that goes far beyond an accumulation of bits and pieces and instead gives food for thought about how our political and social actions intertwine with the arts in a prophetic way. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, October 05