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FRY: Santa Claus Symphony / Niagara Symphony
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FRY: Santa Claus Symphony / Niagara Symphony

13 Oct. 2001 | Format: MP3

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Product details

  • Original Release Date: 13 Oct. 2001
  • Release Date: 13 Oct. 2001
  • Label: Naxos
  • Copyright: (C) 2001 Naxos
  • Total Length: 1:01:30
  • Genres:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 270,255 in Albums (See Top 100 in Albums)

Customer Reviews

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By NNNNN on 23 Dec. 2004
Format: Audio CD
The cover picture and the title "Santa Claus Symphony" might make some wary but have no fear as this cd is a real find.American composer (among other things) William Henry Fry (1813-1864) has a string of firsts to his name. First American composer to write for large symphony orchestra, the first American to write a large scale opera and the first music critic for a major American newspaper. Quite popular in his day he eventually faded from the repertoire. It is safe to say that until this recording some of these works had not been heard in a century (2 are first performances). As will be very apparent that neglect was unjustified. Fry had a grand gift for melody and more importantly the skills and imagination to work them. To call his orchestration colorful is understatement.
The Santa Claus Symphony has a story line but can be listened to on its own. Fry deftly blends in an occasional folk tune or two in so skillful a manner that it takes a few seconds to realize it's there. It emerges seamlessly from his own music. The work concludes with a grand Mahlerian setting of Adeste Fideles.
Fry was a great lover of the bel canto style of opera. That is evident in The Breaking Heart where the orchestra seems to sing in that style. It is a sentimental piece that Fry's skills
prevents from crossing over into kitsch.It was his most popular work in his life time. The massive Niagara Symphony was written for one of P.T. Barnum's "Monster Concerts" although no record of a performance survives. It is scored for large orchestra with 11 timpani.It is a contrast between very subtle and grand orchestral gesture. It is quite impressive bringing to mind Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony or Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony although those works were decades away in the future.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I'm always on the look out for the more obscure or perhaps "forgotten" composers and this disc is a real treat.

Fry is a composer I've not heard of before, but he could certainly write and keep up a sustained effort in melody. Quite brilliant, more please Naxos!!
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superb christmas symphony brought to exciting life by the rsno,i had never heard it before but it is delightful .
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By Andi on 13 Aug. 2015
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
As new
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A musical pioneer--with all that implies 22 May 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This CD has rightly received lots of critical attention and just about as much critical praise. And who is William Henry Fry? A contemporary of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, he was the first native-born American to write music for large orchestra. In his own day he was probably most esteemed as a music critic for major papers and as an opera composer, though his work is derivative. (Belini is said to have been his primary inspiration.) As an orchestral composer, he was known through tours of the Julien Orchestra, which gave the Santa Claus Symphony and The Breaking Heart hearings before appreciative audiences. It's not hard to understand why: The Breaking Heart is just what a 19th-century audience from the swites wanted to hear. It is an extended salon piece that happens to be scored for full symphony orchestra, and though it has all the saccharine and sentimental qualities of its genre, it is beautifully scored and shows genuine craftmanship.

This is true as well of the dramatic Macbeth Overture, written in the last year of Fry's life and apparently never performed. While it, too, has sentimental touches supplied through what sounds like ballet music from one of Belini's operas, it also has some impressive writing for winds, especially the trombones, which give it an especially demonic quality.

The Niagra Symphony, also probably unheard in Fry's day, makes a glorious noise with its battery of eleven timpani and cascading strings and winds, but it is a one-trick pony compared with the other music on this disk, most notably the Santa Claus Symphony, whose program, though naive, provides some truly memorable music. If you're not a fan of the orchestral music that Belini and Verdi supplied for their operas (and I'm not), the opening fanfare and march to celebrate the birth of Jesus may sound unredeemably hoked-up to you. But the jaunty music that Fry supplies for the family Christmas party, for Santa's arrival (complete with sleigh bells and whip), and for Christmas morning around the tree has all the countrified charm of a Currier and Ives print. Fry's metamorphosis of Adeste Fidelis into the grand peroration of the "finale" ends this "symphony" (symphonic poem, really) on just the right celebratory note. Along the way there are some colorful contributions from the strings (the snowstorm, in which a doublebass solo represents a lost and freezing traveler!), the soprano saxophone (a lullaby), and the high bassoon (Santa's music). The Scottish orchestra turns in some very fine playing in all this highly pictorial music, and Tony Rowe conducts with just the right emotional balance so that the composer's naive charm doesn't devolve into bathos.

The recording is excellent too. It conveys a large acoustic admirably without cloudiness: Every bit of coloristic detail is crystal clear. This is music, and music making, that you'll be happy you came to know.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The notes come in handy. 6 Jan. 2002
By Lee Hartsfeld - Published on
Format: Audio CD
William Henry Fry's "Santa Claus Symphony" is actually one movement made up of several mini-movements, or whatever. In the absence of a program, your ears will be confused by the start/stop nature of the "symphony." Luckily, the notes tell us most, or much, of the story that is illustrated by the music--a snowstorm, a party, Santa's arrival, etc. All the listener has to do is know where he or she is. I, myself, started reading the notes somewhat past the double bass solo, so I was as lost as the guy in the snowstorm.
The "Niagara Symphony" needs no program--and what would that be, anyway? ("Water falls. Water continues to fall. Etc.") This music is static in form and therefore eminently easy to follow. It is also superbly majestic and evocative. Even without knowing the title in advance, the listener will guess he is hearing something epic being described. ("Water. I see water. Lots of it.") Orchestrationally, this piece is the 19th century's answer to Ferde Grofe's "Grand Canyon Suite."
But the killer track is the "Macbeth" overture, a superbly dramatic work almost in a league with Tchaikovsky. And "The Aching Heart" is a beautifully-written light piece not nearly as maudlin as its title. It is deceptively simple in the best Viennese tradition.
Listeners as impressed as I am by this composer might want to check out the Fry piano work on "The Wind Demon and other 19th Century Piano Music" CD (on the New World label).
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
pre-commercialism Santa music 7 Mar. 2002
By NotATameLion - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This disc is not what I thought it would be...and I am glad for it! Release from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is composed of four delightful orchestral tone poems. Each is fun in its own way.
Yet the Santa Claus Symphony was not what I was thinking it would be. It is amazing how much my expectation of music about Santa has been shaped by twentieth/twenty-first century commercialism. This music was a great antidote to my biases. I enjoy its inventiveness and its palpably felt joy. The carol motif at the end is especially wonderful.
The best of the other three pieces is the Macbeth overture. It is really a great piece that probably deserves a broader audience. Hopefully this disc will win it one.
If you want some great, original music, you could do worse than this disc (especially at Naxos prices). I recommend it wholeheartedly.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Excellent performances of interesting if hardly great music 2 May 2009
By G.D. - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
William Henry Fry (1813-64) was a strikingly original figure; he was the first American-born composer to write for large orchestral forces (among a host of other things), and despite incorporating many elements of contemporary European music (Berlioz seems like the most obvious influence), his musical voice is thoroughly original. In the Santa Claus Symphony - a symphonic poem, really, where Santa Claus fortunately makes only a brief appearance - he incorporates several popular songs of the period, and the work is evocatively pictorial and interestingly scored (among other things with the use of a soprano saxophone, surely not a common instrumental touch in 1853). That said, the structure is very loose and the work is in the end hardly more than the sum of its often very interesting parts.

The Niagara Symphony (another symphonic poem, and a short one at that) is another graphic, original and well scored work, but one which is rather short on actual content. The Macbeth overture from 1864 is more conventional but well constructed and including some exciting material, especially again in terms of some very original orchestral textures. The Breaking Heart is overall less worthwhile.

Performances are uniformly excellent, and the players are clearly excited by this visceral if ultimately hollow music. Sound quality is fortunately superb as well. All in all, this is an intermittingly exciting and appealing issue - a must to those interesting in the development of symphonic music in the U.S., but definitely worthwhile to others as well; just don't expect any unqualified masterpieces.
The first captured sounds of Niagara Falls! 27 Nov. 2014
By Richard J. Oravitz - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This was an exceptional listening experience. For pre Civil War music there is none of the datedness of Steven Foster, and by that I mean only that Foster has a certain sound that we readily associate with his times.
The Santa Claus Symphony is pretty much a half hour tone poem depicting the Christmas season and it does so splendidly enough to perfectly capture the Holiday spirit of things, sleigh ride and all.
Overture to MacBeth and The Breaking Heart sound more modern than they actually are, but for me the real thrill here was listening to what was probably the first capture in sound of what Niagara Falls was all about, the rush and cascading of water, the force of nature to be reckoned with, a picture perfect (musical) postcard before any such thing was available.
A valuable addition to any classical music collection.
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