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Symphony No 4/Milena for Soprano & Orchestra


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Amazon.com: 7 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
For Ginastera May 4 2007
By Discophage - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Peter Mennin's Symphony No. 4 "The Cycle" for chorus and orchestra was completed in November 1948 and given its first performance under the direction of Robert Shaw on March 18, 1949. The text is by the composer himself. The cycle from the title is that of time, of nature and human destiny ("Time passing, waters flowing, / The great cycle begins once more, / Washing stains away"). The two outer movements are vigorous in rhythm, brassy in orchestration and alternately angry and heroic in character, framing a broodingly lyrical second movement. Though well crafted, the music is never very original and, for all its dramatic vigor, it doesn't stand out from similar symphonic compositions written in the 40s by Harris, Piston, Barber, Schuman. I also find the treatment of the chorus somewhat heavy-handed and didactic, and rather thick and unsubtle in texture. Phoenix must be thanked for providing the text, which otherwise would not always be intelligible. Still, this can have some appeal for those with an interest for the history of symphonic writing in the USA.

Alberto Ginastera's Cantata "Milena" is the reason to buy this disc. Inspired by the passionate and desperate letters of Kafka to Milena Jesenska, it was composed in 1971. A mood of pent-up mystery is established at the beginning, with a haunting and melismatic line sung by the unaccompanied soprano, picked up by a pedal of hushed strings with mysterious punctuations from the percussion, evoking some of George Crumb's compositions after Llorca. The text is partly spoken and sometimes delivered in a "Sprechgesang" style. The music often recalls Berg's Lulu and has the same kind of tense lyrical quality, but its language is more advanced than Berg's, especially in the more dramatic outbursts, which brought to my mind the music of Bernd-Alois Zimmermann ("Die Soldaten") and the kind of contemporary music composed in Europe in the 70s. The music is not "pretty" and easy-listening, as seems to be required of contemporary music nowadays, but Ginastera never sacrifices drama and expression. Phyllis Curtin sings beautifully. Unfortunately Phoenix does not provide the text for the songs (sung in Spanish). Other than that, the notes are synthetic but informative.

Phoenix does great service to the music lover by reissuing these recordings and others from the Desto and Everest labels on CD, but they deserve a rap on the knuckles for providing such stingy total time (47') and no information on the recording dates and provenance. Both compositions originated as Desto LPs, "Milena" with, of all couplings, Chopin's 2nd Piano Concerto, and the Mennin Symphony with a rarity then and still now: Czerny's Piano 4-Hands Concerto, Op. 153. They were recorded somewhere between 1971 and 1975.
Mennin: wonderful music, excellent performance Sept. 30 2014
By zeppyblimp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Peter Mennin, one of the finest American composers, published seven symphonies (numbered 3 to 9), each one filled with beautiful, individual music that has a strong emotional impact. He was born in Erie, PA in 1923 and was President of the Juilliard School from 1961 until he died in 1983. This CD presents his 4th Symphony (1948), probably the least played because it requires a chorus in addition to the orchestra. We are lucky to have this fine recording from the early 1970s by the Camerata Singers and Orchestra of New York, led by Abraham Kaplan (who was also the Director of Choral Music at the Juilliard School). Mennin wrote tonal music featuring a “continuous unfolding of polyphonic lines through imitative counterpoint, adapted from Renaissance choral music, but with a vastly different effect: a noble lyricism in the slow movements and a constant sense of nervous energy and unswerving determination in the fast movements.” [Walter Simmons] His style can be called modern-traditionalist; “it is neither the Apollonian classical ideal nor the romantic’s confession of personal feeling, but the logical development of abstract ideas that seem to address profound existential issues from a non-verbal, depersonalized perspective.” [Simmons] The 4th Symphony resembles his better-known 3rd Symphony (1946) in its fairly diatonic melodies, peppy, march-like fast movements, and song-like slow movement – but the chorus gives it a completely different feel: church music (yet modern), a feel that is reinforced by some melodies being in the Locrian mode [a type of tonality in old church music]. The slow movement has reminded listeners of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms (1930). In the fast movements, I occasionally sense traces of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana (1936), but without that work’s conscious atavism. Mennin does a great job handling the interactions between the chorus and the orchestra and among the different sections of the chorus. Another feature is that the text is a poem that Mennin wrote himself, a rare occasion when he revealed his own world view. He describes overwhelming, impersonal forces unleashed by the laws of physics (“the eternal waters”) crashing into one another and, in that process, incidentally crushing man – and you can sense those forces in his continuous unfolding of polyphonic lines. It is a somber philosophy, but it inspired Mennin to write austere, beautiful music. The other work on this CD, Alberto Ginastera’s Milena for Soprano and Orchestra (1971) does little for me. Other customer reviewers have characterized it adequately as similar to “contemporary music written in Europe in the 1970s” that usually “garners little attention from the public” and also “evokes George Crumb.” If you wish to learn more about Mennin and his symphonies, I enthusiastically recommend “Voices of Stone and Steel – The Music of William Schuman, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin” by Walter Simmons.
Music for special tastes. Superb performances June 8 2014
By Joseph Kline PhD, MD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I enjoy a fair proportion of modern music, especially works by composer like Peter Mennin. Mennin was distinguished by composition study with Howard Hanson at Eastman where he earned Masters and Ph.D. degrees, then faculty at Julliard, leaving to direct the program at Peabody, and finally back to Julliard to assume the position of President. All through the making of this impressive Curriculum Vita, he was also composing some the 20th century’s greatest music. I have previously reviewed several albums of his orchestral music and found them uniformly interesting if not thrilling and moving. They are always accessible to listeners. On this Phoenix label album, Mennin’s Symphony No. 4 “The Cycle” is performed by the Camerata Singers and Symphony Orchestra. Also on the disc is Alberto Ginestera’s Milena for Soprano & Orchestra.

Symphony 4 is a choral symphony. Each of the three movements includes substantial choral parts. The music is pleasant and interesting but not beautiful or memorable. There are melodic lines but none that you will whistle afterwards. I love the combination of chorus and orchestra, so I was really looking forward to hearing this music. Although I can’t say the work was a disappointment and it is enjoyable, I will not likely play it very often. The Ginestera Milena is the type of work that is not my cup of tea – solo voice with orchestra and in this case much of it spoken in Spanish. This is the type of modern music that garners little attention by the public because of its atonality. Others with an appetite for such music may have a very different view of the work. All in all, this album is more than adequate, and although I don't love the works herein, the performances are exemplary. RECOMMENDED!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Mennin & Ginastera June 14 2000
By Francisco J. Muñoz - Published on Amazon.com
Peter Mennin, no obstante, de ser uno de los grandes compositores norteamericanos en la actualidad su música es desconocida para la mayoría de los aficionados a la música, inclusive dentro de los mismos Estados Unidos. Su cuarta sinfonía para orquesta y coro, es de una belleza peculiar, muy al estilo de su compositor con la característica de muchos compositores norteamericanos "Música optimista" con mucha FE en el ser humano. Mennin en el transcurso de toda su vida sólo publicó alrededor de 30 obras, puesto que era muy exigente con su propia obra y esto le da un certificado de calidad, yo dentro de mi experiencia con la música de Mennin puedo afirmar que todos las obrar que he escuchado de él son de muy buenas para arriba.
La obra de Alberto Ginastera, (Compositor argentino), Milena es una obra inspirada en cartas que escribiera el escritor checoslovaco Franz Kafka a una amiga de juventud y publicadas como "Cartas a Milena". La obra es para orquesta y soprano, la parte cantada es más bien recitada un poco al estilo de Pierrot Lunaire de Arnold Schoenberg, sin ser una gran obra evidentemente tiene gran mérito, en la parte final la orquesta toca el tema del ultimo lieder del Winterrise de Schubert, el tema del organillero, que es símbolo de la muerte para Ginastera.
Compre este disco mientras pueda, pues dudo que esté mucho tiempo en catalogo!
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Nuevos Horizontes June 8 2000
By Francisco J. Muñoz - Published on Amazon.com
Peter Mennin, no obstante, de ser uno de los grandes compositores norteamericanos en la actualidad su música es desconocida para la mayoría de los aficionados a la música, inclusive dentro de los mismos Estados Unidos. Su cuarta sinfonía para orquesta y coro, es de una belleza peculiar, muy al estilo de su compositor con la característica de muchos compositores norteamericanos "Música optimista" con mucha FE en el ser humano. Mennin en el transcurso de toda su vida sólo publicó alrededor de 30 obras, puesto que era muy exigente con su propia obra y esto le da un certificado de calidad, yo dentro de mi experiencia con la música de Mennin puedo afirmar que todos las obrar que he escuchado de él son de muy buenas para arriba.
La obra de Alberto Ginastera, (Compositor argentino), Milena es una obra inspirada en cartas que escribiera el escritor checoslovaco Franz Kafka a una amiga de juventud y publicadas como "Cartas a Milena". La obra es para orquesta y soprano, la parte cantada es más bien recitada un poco al estilo de Pierrot Lunaire de Arnold Schoenberg, sin ser una gran obra evidentemente tiene gran mérito, en la parte final la orquesta toca el tema del ultimo lieder del Winterrise de Schubert, el tema del organillero, que es símbolo de la muerte para Ginastera.
Compre este disco mientras pueda, pues dudo que esté mucho tiempo en catalogo!!!

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