Orchestral Music - Diversions
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Jack Gallagher' Symphony in One Movement: Threnody has been acclaimed by in Tune magazine as 'enormously inventing' and by osterreichische Musikzeitschrift as 'a one-movement symphony of great colorfulness'. The warm, lyrical Berceuse was heralded by Th
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While many composers were embroiled in the whole twelve-tone compositional war that continued into the 1970s, it seems that Gallagher happily missed the boat. What he ended up with is a catalog of beautiful, evocative, colorful works that will be cherished for generations to come, and not relegated to the "farewell premiere" dustbin of time.
Berceuse, is very beautiful and soothing. Diversions Overture is slightly Copland-esque, with a mid-20th century aesthetic, yet very distinctive and colorful. I heard tinges of Hindemith and Holst mixed with a sort of modern tonality and timbral quality that is very unique.
Sinfonietta: a very exciting and well-written work--listenable and formally tight. Gallagher's Symphony in One Movement is reminiscent of some of the great works by Shostakovich, but infused with octatonic scalar material and a little more color, particularly with the addition of non-standard percussion instruments and celeste. This is one of the more harmonically adventurous works in this collection, and is very exciting and highly engaging.
The form and flow of his music is excellent, and there wasn't one second where I was in the least bored. The orchestra sounds as beautiful as you would expect under maestro Falletta. This is a highly listenable and enjoyable recording, and a great example of beautiful and accessible modern music that is rich with depth and color.
From Carson Cooman at "Fanfare Magazine":
"I have been a big fan of the music of American composer Jack Gallagher (b.1947) for nearly 15 years and have encountered all but one of these pieces piecemeal on previous multi-composer collections. An album entirely devoted to Gallagher's music was long overdue. Gallagher's language is largely tonal and traditionalist in orientation; it is the memorable quality of his musical ideas that have kept me returning to his music over the years. He is also a first-rate orchestrator, and the terrific playing of the London Symphony Orchestra showcases this aspect better than ever.
The bulk of Gallagher's orchestral output is included on this CD. The only significant exceptions are The Persistence of Memory, available on a Vienna Modern Masters release, and the 12-minute A Quiet Musicke, which remains unrecorded. Diversions Overture (1986) is a delightful work in which two contemplative outer sections surround a bustling inner section with a very John Williams-esque "big tune" that you'll be whistling for days. It is one of the most satisfying American overtures I know, and the quiet coda provides an unexpectedly fresh ending to a piece in this ubiquitous "10 minute overture" genre. Berceuse (1976) is a beautiful, simple lullaby in a lilting triple meter.
The Sinfonietta for String Orchestra (1990/2007) is a five-movement work with the character of a divertimento. It calls to mind the American Symphonette suites of Morton Gould. Most appealing is the middle Malambo movement, an homage to Alberto Ginastera. Though it is a bit shorter than the Sinfonietta, the most "substantial" work on the album is the symphony (1991, rev. 2008). It is a deeply emotional piece composed in memory of Gallagher's mother. The musical language is substantially more acerbic than the other works. Along with Anthony Iannaccone's tremendous Third Symphony (1992), Gallagher's is my favorite "unknown" symphony of the 1990s and is music that deserves to be widely played. The symphony begins with an extended slow section that builds momentum toward fast, driving music. The inexorable thrust of the piece compellingly depicts the murky emotional passage from lonely darkness into assertive conviction--ending with a forceful, angry coda.
Three of the pieces on this album have been recorded previously. Diversions Overture is on an ERM release with the Kiev Philharmonic and the symphony and Berceuse are on two Vienna Modern Masters albums with the Polish Radio Symphony and Koszalin Philharmonic. These new recordings by JoAnn Falletta and the LSO (and overseen by veteran producer Michael Fine) are superior in every way. Warmly recommended and almost certainly a Want List item for me".
The 10-minute Diversions Overture is typically American major key happiness with a Sousa march influence. It is followed in the program by Bereceuse, a 5-minutes Vaughan Williams-like song for flute and strings where a horn and woodwinds later take the theme. The 26-minute Sinfonietta, in five parts, reminded me in construction like the same piece by Janacek. In five fast-slow-fast-slow-fast movements, it features a quiet and haunting intermezzo that is more like an adagio. The true slow movement, a 5-minute pavane, seems a bit out of place after this. The main course here, a 21 and one-half minute symphony in one movement subtitled Threnody, could have been written by Bernstein. It follows that conductor's dramatic and rhythmic influences from Kaddish to West Side Story.
The playing of the London Symphony Orchestra is fine under JoAnn Falletta, who is probably America's No. 2 female conductor. She has made a name for herself in recordings on Naxos with the Buffalo Philharmoic Orchestra. The sound on this one is typically Naxos -- pretty good but lacking ideal clarity -- as are the notes and inserts on other recordings in the label's American music series. The craft by this composer is high and I am certain he is a major influence in university circles.
Anyone looking for something new may find one or two things they like here but nothing in this package is good enough to rave about. For me, this is derivative music that needs more of an individual voice. Even then, I'm afraid I might not be interested. This recording received two raves in Fanfare magazine, to which I say vive la difference.
John J. Puccio