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Central Park in the Dark, Robert Browning Overture


Price: £14.52 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Audio CD (23 Aug 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nimbus Alliance
  • ASIN: B00007KII6
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 531,029 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

The Unanswered Question - Central Park in the Dark - Robert Browning Overture - Three Places in New England / The Gulbenkian Orchestra, dir. Michel Swierczewski

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Recording is fairly average - nothing startling; quality is good but not outstanding. Maybe Charles Ives is not quite to my taste.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A review of the Robert Browning Overture, with further comments on "craggy-sounding" music 22 July 2012
By Tom Brody - Published on Amazon.com
The ROBERT BROWNING OVERTURE seems to have gotten short shrift over the years, that is, in view of the dearth of recordings. In high school, in the late 1960s, I possessed the version recorded by Morton Gould with the Chicago Symphony. At that impressionable age, I had the habit of imagining that I liked any piece that sounded daring. At any rate, since then I've listened to present version recorded by THE GULBENKIAN ORCHESTRA, and the version recorded by K. Schermerhorn with the NASHVILLE SYMPHONY. Regarding the latter recording, I only have to say that the Schermerhorn version is unlistenable. This version includes a stretch of several minutes where there is a high-volume bass drum going, "BOOM-boom, BOOM-boom, BOOM-boom, BOOM-boom." This ruins the piece. In contrast, the version with The Gulbenkian Orchestra does not have this particular extended booming by the bass drum. In the version by The Gulbenkian Orchestra version, the bass drum may be playing at the same part of the composition, but it cannot be heard, and it certainly does not intrude.

ROBERT BROWNING OVERTURE begins with a low-throated drone provided by the cellos, decorated by higher-pitched drawn-out shrieking motifs from the woodwinds. At 1 minute, 30 seconds, what materializes is the "circling shark motif." This motif is heard again later on in the piece. At 2 minutes, a springtime meadow-theme is played by the clarinets, which provides a relaxing counterpoint to the earlier scary sharks.

INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER. At 3 min, 10 sec, what appears is the, "Off-we-go-into-the-wild-blue-yonder" motif. (This is the U.S. Air Force song.) The "Off-we-go-into-the-wild-blue-yonder" theme disrupts the quietness of the earlier springtime meadow theme.

DESCENDING TRIPLET MOTIF. At 4 min, the triplet-descending motif begins. The triplet-descending motif is at the very heart of THE ROBERT BROWNING OVERTURE, since more time is devoted to this motif than to any of the other motifs. The triplet-descending motif includes biting, snapping trombones. The descending motif has a steady rhythm, and plenty of Ivesian chaos is woven into the simple motif of repeated descending triplets. At 7 minutes, another motif materializes, and this is provided by the brass, and it is laid over on top of the repeating triplets. The new motif is a brassy ta-ta-dahhhhh! At 7 min, 40 sec, the bass drum goes boom-boom-boom, but this continues for less than ten seconds.

NIGHT MUSIC. At 8 minutes, suddenly all is quiet again, and the listener is treated to a stretch of "night music." At nine minutes, a forlorn oboe provides a bleating sheep call that overlays the night music. At 10 min, all is still quiet and the listener is treated to a yearning tune that is played by the violins. At 11 min, 30 sec, all is suddenly even quieter, and the flute plays a retarded-sounding tune that resides on a wash of strings. At 13 min, the flute still plays the retarded-sounding tune. At 14 min, 30 sec, things get still quieter, but the ominous circling-shark motif returns. At 16 min, 20 seconds all is completely quiet, but this lasts for, at most, one second.

WILD BLUE YONDER. At 16 min, 20 sec, the "Off-we-go-into-the-wild-blue-yonder" theme bursts forth in noisy exuberance. At 17 min, 15 sec, the descending-triplet motif returns, where this descending motif is repeated dozens of times, and is surrounded by a bed of Ivesian chaos. At 20 min, 20 sec, the snapping sharks, alternatively sounding like a threatening swarm of bees, makes a comeback. The shark-motif lasts for about 50 seconds.

NOBLE MELODY. At 21 minutes, 30 seconds, a noble tune is provided, and it sounds a bit like the beginning to the opening notes of THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA, composed by Richard Strauss. From 21 minutes, 40 seconds until 24 minutes, 0 seconds, the Ivesian chaos resumes, and it eventually explodes in a crash of cymbals. Suddenly, at the very end of the piece, all is quiet, and THE ROBERT BROWNING OVERTURE is concluded with a solemn "bong" of a church bell.

CONCLUSION. I prefer to listen to THE ROBERT BROWNING OVERTURE several times per year. Perhaps the fact that it is not a lyrical piece of music (essentially no hummable tunes), and that therefore there are not any tunes that one can get tired of, is what induces my continued interest in this piece. The real reason I like the piece is the craggy-nature of the extended descending triple-motifs. Another composition with a craggy-theme is COLORED FIELD by Aaron Kernis, as recorded by the San Francisco Symphony. Provided below is an excerpt of my Amazon.com review of the Kernis piece, where I describe the craggy-theme.

"Kernis' third movement begins with a step-wise music, featuring bold, dignified, Coplandesque chords. This contrasts nicely with the cartoons of the second movement. At 4 minutes and 40 seconds into the 3rd movement, there occurs a stuttering horn, briefly evoking Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto (see 3 min and 50 seconds in the Cello Concerto). The stuttering horn never appears again in Kernis' piece. From 9 minutes to 11 minutes, there is a warm and cozy sounding section. Then, 11 minutes into the third movement, the step-wise music returns, with its craggy mountains and Copland-chords, but this time supplemented with clanging metal and galloping wooden blocks. Finally, at 14 minutes, occurs another gentle section, where the English horn provides a solo in absence of accompaniment. At 16 ½ minutes, there occurs a reassuring, optimistic, quiet section, reminiscent of the concluding moments of Ives' Unanswered Question, perhaps implying that the hurdles imposed by the craggy mountains and thunderstorms are overcome. At 22 minutes and 40 seconds, the 3rd movement ends with a creative yelp."
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