Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Orchestra of the Swan revives symphony last heard in Birmingham

A symphony that had been neglected since its last-known performance in Birmingham 56 years ago is set to reach a new worldwide audience thanks to Orchestra of the Swan.

The UK's most innovative and accessible orchestra has made the first-ever recording of Hans Gál's masterful Third Symphony, last heard in a Town Hall concert in 1955.

The orchestra, current artists in residence at Town Hall Birmingham, recorded the piece for one of three new CDs in front of a live audience at Stratford-upon-Avon Civic Hall.

The Gál CD is being paired with Schumann's Symphony no. 3 under the direction of Principal Guest Conductor Kenneth Woods for release on the Avie Records label in June.

Woods, a cellist who has built a reputation as a conductor with orchestras across the US and UK, has championed the music of Gál, a Jewish composer born in 1890 who escaped from his native Austria in 1938 and worked in Britain until his death in 1987 aged 97. His previous world premiere recording of Gál's orchestral music was praised as a “superb disc” by Gramophone Magazine, noting Woods' “highly polished account”.

Kenneth Woods said: “After settling in Edinburgh, Gál became a respected academic and author of books on Brahms and Schumann but in the meantime performances of his music waned which is astonishing given the superb quality of his music and his vast output.

“Regardless of his life’s circumstances, Gál stayed remarkably true to his tonal musical language, and his craft and invention can’t be faulted. I’m thrilled to be bringing his works to light for a public who I’m sure will find them as compelling as I do.”

Gál’s Symphony no. 3 in A was composed in 1951-1952, with the composer conducting the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in its premiere two years later. The last known performance was given in 1955 by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Rudolf Schwarz.

Woods added: “Pairing Gál’s Third Symphony with Schumann’s final Symphony in E flat, written in 1850, seemed a natural choice, as Gál was a well-known scholar of Schumann’s music. His book “Schumann Orchestral Works” was published by the BBC in 1979.”

His recording of the third symphonies of Schumann and Gál is the first in a series with Orchestra of the Swan coupling the two composers’ complete symphonies.

The CD will follow the release of Mahler's Symphony no. 4 in a chamber arrangement by a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg's pupil Erwin Stein and reconstructed by Alexander Platt.

Conducted by OOTS Artistic Director David Curtis to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Mahler's death, the recording made in Town Hall Birmingham is now available on the Somm label.

David Curtis said: “Having conducted the full version in the past, I find the reduction absolutely convincing. There is so much delicacy and transparency in the original that the arrangement brings out beautifully.”

It is coupled with the world premiere recording of Berlioz's Nuits d'Été, arranged for voice and chamber ensemble by composer David Matthews, sung by mezzo-soprano Heather Shipp, who also sings the touching song that ends the Mahler Symphony.

The CD has already received a rave review from prolific music commentator Norman Lebrecht who has chosen it as one of his CDs of the week. He writes: “Scaled back to a dozen instruments for one of Arnold Schoenberg's private concerts, this skeletal version is played with great razzle-dazzle by musicians from the Orchestra of the Swan, under David Curtis, with Heather Shipp (a little too rich) as the finale soloist. The adagio, in particular, is perfectly shaped. Shipp comes off much better in Davis Matthews' reduction of Berlioz's Nuits d'Été in a disc almost overstuffed with good things.”

Kenneth Woods is also the conductor in OOTS's recording of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (“The Song of the Earth”) and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (“Songs of a Wayfarer”) in chamber ensemble arrangements by Schoenberg. Recorded in Townsend Hall Shipston-on-Stour, the CD will be available from Somm in May.

Orchestra of the Swan has already made a number of acclaimed CDs including the first-ever recording of Arnold Bax's Concertino for Piano & Orchestra. The CD is coupled with John Ireland's Concerto for Piano & Orchestra in E flat and his Legend for Piano & Orchestra, with pianist Mark Bebbington.

The orchestra's recording of the Copland and Finzi clarinet concertos with clarinettist Sarah Williamson was Classic FM CD of the Week.

David Curtis, Artistic Director, said: “Our imaginative CD recordings, which offer fresh musical parallels between popular and lesser-known works, have helped to establish Orchestra of the Swan as one of the UK's most innovative and accessible orchestras.”

No comments: