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Music for a Time of War Hybrid SACD, SACD

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Product details

  • Conductor: Carlos Kalmar
  • Composer: Ives, Adams, Britten, Vaughan Williams
  • Audio CD (14 Nov. 2011)
  • Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD, SACD
  • Label: PentaTone
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 269,996 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song TitleArtist Time Price
  1. The Unanswered QuestionOregon Symphony 5:41£0.79  Buy MP3 
  2. The Wound-DresserSanford Sylvan20:18Album Only
  3. Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20: I. LacrymosaOregon Symphony 8:34Album Only
  4. Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20: II. Dies IraeOregon Symphony 4:53£0.79  Buy MP3 
  5. Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20: III. Requiem aeternamOregon Symphony 5:36£0.79  Buy MP3 
  6. Symphony No. 4 in F Minor: I. AllegroOregon Symphony 8:57Album Only
  7. Symphony No. 4 in F Minor: II. Andante moderatoOregon Symphony10:01Album Only
  8. Symphony No. 4 in F Minor: III. Scherzo: Allegro moltoOregon Symphony 5:22£0.79  Buy MP3 
  9. Symphony No. 4 in F Minor: IV. Finale con epilogo fugato: Allegro moltoOregon Symphony 8:33Album Only

Product Description

Product Description

Kalmar,Carlos/Oregon Symphony,The


What a pleasure to again have a new recording from our excellent local symphony. The Oregon Symphony is one of the largest arts organizations in the Northwest, one of the largest orchestras in the nation, and this is their first of a planned series of SACDs for PentaTone. Conductor Carlos Kalmar, who hails from Uruguay and conducted for many years in Vienna, said in an NPR interview that he didn t put together the unusual program (which the Symphony played in their recent Carnegie Hall debut) due to the country being in a war right now, but keeping in mind that the human race is always at war somewhere with someone. The program of four works by 20th century composers is well-chosen to offer great variety in sound and compositional techniques, as well as provide a very moving and touching meditation on the idea of war and its awful consequences. The opening short Ives work for solo trumpet, four quarreling woodwinds and some strings starts things off with the question perhaps of the meaning of existence but with the heavy philosophy mitigated by Ives off-beat humor, making it all less tragic-sounding. The words sung by the baritone in John Adams The Wound-Dresser come from Walt Whitman's experiences in the battlefield hospitals of the Civil War. It is an evocation of nursing the sick and dying with the greatest human compassion. The other two works on the program get more symphonic/orchestral. The Britten Sinfonia had been originally commissioned by the Japanese government, who perhaps understandably refused it. Written in 1940 while the English composer was in the U.S. as London was burning, the work uses titles from the Latin Mass for its three movements: Lacrymosa, Dies Irae, and Requiem Aeternam. It has orchestral imitations of some of the sounds of war, such as the drone of aircraft engines and the dot-dashing of radio signals. The third movement offers some respite from the horrors of war. I've always found this work my least-liked of Britten's, but the Oregon Symphony s moving recording makes a strong case in its favor. Vaughan Williams was known for his primarily pastoral three symphonies and other works when he shocked some British listeners with the premiere of his Fourth Symphony in 1935. Its opening is similar to the brash announcement of Beethoven s Fifth Symphony, and the entire work is full of tension, dissonance and drama. The composer himself recorded the work in 1937 his only commercial recording. It's not really a wartime symphony. but nevertheless fits into this program perfectly with its sonic equivalent of an avalanche of power, and the finale does seem to sound a note of triumph that is fitting. Recorded during a live concert in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, the Oregon Symphony s home in Portland, the rich surround sonics predict a superb combination of excellent performances together with first-rate fidelity for their new SACD series. Every detail is well represented; perhaps better than in the actual concert hall (as also with the Telarc recordings of the San Francisco Symphony). The audience is amazingly quiet, or else the engineers did a subtle job of digital noise removal on the recordings. Without the applause and pauses between the works of a live concert, one better gets into the relationships between them. John Sunier

With a strong performance of Vaughan Williams violent and muscular Fourth Symphony as its centrepiece, this is an enterprising collection, even though the 'war' motif is tendentious Vaughan Williams fought shy of such interpretations. --Barry Forshaw CD Choice

The Oregon Symphony, the sixth oldest American orchestra, was founded in 1896 as the Portland Symphony Society; in 1967 the name was changed to Oregon Symphony. Carlos Kalmar has been music director since 2003, and this SACD contains the program they presented in Carnegie Hall in May 2011 --The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts

Music for a Time of War is a compelling and inspired example of intelligent programme planning, and it's extremely well played by the Oregon Symphony conducted by Carlos Kalmar. Though it was recorded live at concerts on two consecutive nights in Portland, Oregon, the audiences are practically silent I imagine they were spellbound by these remarkable performances. 'The Unanswered Question' is not a war piece as such, but its original title was 'A Contemplation of a Serious Matter', and it makes an ideal prelude to what follows in a performance that captures its uneasy and conflicted stillness with great concentration and some wonderfully refined quiet playing. John Adams set part of Walt Whitman's 'The Wound-Dresser' in 1989. The poem was a meditation on Whitman's experiences as a nurse during the American Civil War words from which have not only been immortalized in Adams's setting but also at one of the entrances to Du Pont Circle station on the Washington, DC Metro system. 'The Wound-Dresser' is eloquently sung here by Sanford Sylvan, for whom it was originally written (and who recorded it with the composer for its first recording). This intensely moving and beautiful work is given an outstanding performance here not only through the vibrant involvement (and wonderful diction) of Sylvan but also the rapt sensitivity of the orchestral playing. Britten's 'Sinfonia da Requiem' was composed between October 1939 and June 1940, with revisions made in October 1940, before the New York premiere in March 1941 under Barbirolli. Commissioned for the 2,600th anniversary of the Japanese empire, Britten's symphony in memory of his parents, with its explicitly Christian movement titles taken from the Requiem Mass, was famously rejected by the Japanese authorities at the time. It is delivered with powerful authority by Kalmar and his players on this new recording, even if the playing doesn't quite have the supreme assurance of Britten's famous 1964 recording with the New Philharmonia. However, it comes very close, not least in the tricky second movement where the Oregon Symphony articulates the driving rhythms with formidable energy and clarity, and in the lyrical, reposeful reading of the closing''Requiem aeternam' (notable for some lovely flute playing). Vaughan Willaims was constantly at pains to deny any premonitions of war in his F minor Symphony (finished in 1931), but its violence and mechanistic forcefulness make it an ideal work with which to end this programme (the disc's full title is, after all, 'for', rather than 'from' or 'about', a time of war). It's always good to hear a fine American orchestra playing Vaughan Williams: a tradition in this work that goes back to Rodzinski's 1935 New York Philharmonic premiere, Stokowski in 1943 (NBC SO, on Cala), and commercial recordings by Mitropoulos and Bernstein (both with the NYPO on Sony). Kalmar and the Oregon SO give an unflinching but never over-driven account lyrical moments are captured extremely well too and this is a gritty, detailed and wholly convincing performance by any standards. The Scherzo is properly demonic and the finale is done with stirring intensity. The live recorded sound is exceptionally vibrant; the booklet comes with detailed and interesting notes by Steven Kruger as well as the sung text of 'The Wound-Dresser'. This is a most impressive release, very warmly recommended. - Nigel Simeone --International Record Review Feb 2012

This must be called a concept release. I do not know who decided that. Eventually I agreed to that idea even though only two of the compositions definitely would fall under that title. 'The Wound-Dresser' comes directly from Walt Whitman's 'Drum Taps' collection of poems about the Civil War. During that war, Whitman served as a nurse and indeed was bandaging patients as a wound-dresser. The Sinfonia Requiem commissioned the pacifist Britten and the result is this modern warfare requiem. Be very careful with your gain/volume control here; it starts off with well recorded timpani thwacks that may be a bit too much for many systems. This is particularly true if you had boosted the volume/gain settings for the unusually low output audio for the sublimely beautiful setting of Ives' 'The Unanswered Question'. I doubt that it was originally composed with war in mind, though here it does seem to do a fine job of introducing this 'War album' quite convincingly and I am not sure why. I will accept the liner note's observation that a contemplative work is whatever the listener makes of it. You will boost the amplifier's output to catch the subtle music making going on here as it is recorded or presented at a very low volume setting. Make certain that you lower that gain/volume setting before the third selection, The Sinfonia da Requiem, by Britten is a serious piece by the composer with an unusual background and reviewed here many months ago. The overall audio quality here is simply excellent for all the selections and ties all the compositions together as if they were meant to be. Those opening timpani thwacks are powerful enough and clear and free of distortions to qualify as being of demonstration quality-let your audiophile friends know. If you are asked, nobody knows what the unanswered question is; used here it could possibly be; why do civilized countries go to war, or what ever. It could fit in with many other concept groups or ideas. Claiming to be a pacifist, Vaughan Williams would not claim any connection with war for his powerful Symphony No. 4. His wife claims it to be more like some of his rages though it contains many beautiful sublime passages suggestive of very peaceful night times. This is simply an outstanding release in almost all aspects of performance and audio quality. It is a most highly recommended SACD release even in two channel form and I believe even newcomers to classical music can appreciate the great quantity and quality of music making contained on this little five inch disk. --

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robin Barber on 1 Mar. 2012
Format: Audio CD
An eclectic choice of music from the Uruguayan born Carlos Kalmar, chief conductor of the Oregon Symphony, one of America's oldest orchestras.
The program on this CD was chosen for the orchestra's debut at Carnegie Hall, New York where it was greeted with a great reception from a packed audience and the press ("vivid, often wrenching." New York Times). The recording was made from live performances in Portland, Oregon in May 2011 prior to the Carnegie triumph. As in the concerts, the first three pieces are played without a break (or applause) but the symphony stands alone.
The Unanswered Question (1906) has no real connection to wartime it's theme, is maybe existential, a challenge to the universe, what are we doing here? Charles Ives was a scientist by profession and this music is about uncertainty, a condition of course that can lead to conflict. Sustained strings at the beginning are played with an exquisite pianissimo, you could hear a pin drop. A plaintive offstage trumpet questions the status quo then spikey woodwind instruments interrupt the hushed atmosphere to suggest disorder. This is all wonderfully played with sound of great clarity. Calm is restored as the work closes with a return of sustained strings creating a vast stillness and the music merges with the next piece almost unnoticed.
The Wound Desser (1989) takes words from a collection of poems, Drum Taps (1865) by Walt Whitman in which he reflects upon his experiences as a nurse in the American Civil War. Vaughan Williams would, of course have been familiar with this anguished poetry. I was unfamiliar with this music but not the composer, and it corrects the mistaken impression I had of John Adams, as a minimalist, sometimes "whacky" composer.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
First rate performances of all the works on this disc, with a recording to match. Unfortunately I recieved a faulty disc the fist time around but still recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Many a soldiers' loving arms... 6 Nov. 2011
By Lorenzo - Published on
Format: Audio CD
UPDATE: This album was just nominated for two 2013 Grammys: for Best Orchestral Performance, and as well for Best Engineered Album, Classical.

Magnificent music. A superb album.

This album is a moving, sometimes heart-breaking contemplation of war and its consequences. And yet, as only the best of art can provide, the overall effect of the performance is one of solace and comfort...the result is therapeutic, cathartic, a purification of the emotions. The very core of the concert (I believe) is the John Adams piece, which sets a civil war-era Walt Whitman poem, The Wound Dresser, to strikingly appropriate and powerful music. Baritone Sanford Sylvan portrays Whitman's voice superbly. The CD listener experiences the pieces as presented in the concert hall, with applause withheld. This is the proper way to immerse into this music, allowing the juxtaposition of the pieces to contrast, combine, add, increase the power of the overall listening experience, much as waves combine, add and increase to form a complex texture on the surface of the sea.

The Oregon Symphony, now under the leadership of Carlos Kalmar, has never played better. Today, the Oregon Symphony Orcestra must be as good as any orchestra in the nation.

I attended the actual concert at which this music was recorded, and comparing my memory of that live performance with my under-the-headphones hearing of this CD today, I have to say that I am impressed at the high technical quality of the sound recording. The CD is, I think, actually superior to the concert hall; the result is a rich, wide sound, with fine balancing of the instrumentation against baritone and violin solos. The background is quiet and clean, with no hiss. And considering that the music was recorded live, it's impressive to me that there is only the rare hint of suppressed background noise: nuisance noises such as audience coughs were either stifled at the source or have been filtered to a near indetectable ebb. Kudos to the technical team.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Everything is a go in a moving program that is superbly recorded 7 April 2012
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on
Format: Audio CD
A few months ago baritone Simon Keenlyside released an album of "Songs of War" that brought back to mind the shattering effect that two world wars had on the twentieth century, and most especially WW I. that conflict horrified Western civilization and shook its sense of self-confidence, optimism, and culture. An atavistic beast crashed into the parlor. Here we get a similarly themed orchestral program of considerable variety. It includes one of John Adams' most compelling works, "The Wound-Dresser," based on Walt Whitman's poignant civil War memories. The orchestration includes a solo trumpet rising over hushed strings, echoing Ives's "An Unanswered Question," which begins the program and seamlessly flows into the Adams - a nice effect.

Although Carlos Kalmar and the Oregon Sym. can't quite match Leonard Bernstein's reading of the Ives, they have the advantage of much better sound. As usual with Pentatone, audio quality if vivid and natural. In the Adams this performance comes up against a well-known Naxos release with Nathan Gunn as vocal soloist and Marin Alsop conducting. I find Sanford Sylvan a more persuasive a moving singer, and the microphones catch his subtlety very well; he has been an exemplary, highly musical singer for years and considerably underrated, in my view.

Two longer works follow. Britten the pacifist was much concerned about war and human suffering, and his relatively early Sinfonia da Requiem is book-ended by the later "War Requiem," both of which survive as among the few anti-war testaments that hold a place in the standard repertoire (although "standard" applies mostly to Great Britain in this case). Vaughan Williams wrote two turbulent symphonies, the Fourth and Sixth, that were taken to be statements about war and violence, although he repeatedly denied the connection, just as Carl Neilsen denied that his Fifth sym. was a reaction to the First World War.

In both works Kalmar again competes with well-known recordings from the likes of Barbirolli, Bernstein, Rattle, and the two composers themselves, both excellent conductors. For some listeners the deciding factor may be better sound or the SACD format (I have heard only the two-channel stereo version). The growling brass and thumping timpani strokes that begin the Britten could hardly be more realistic and menacing. but musically there are no grounds for complaint, either. The Sinfonia da Requiem can be approached with more anguished intensity than Kalmar brings, but his gentler reading is eloquent and sad enough, to be sure. In the Vaughan Williams, we have two schools of interpretation. On the one hand the composer and Bernstein lead with incredible emotional impact, emphasizing the crunching discords that are unique to this symphony in Vaughan Williams' output. On the other hand, Adrian Boult and most British conductors lead smoother, less chaotic readings that brood rather than assault. Kalmar's account belongs to that school and in fact is the smoothest I've ever heard. I expected not to like it, therefore, but in its cultivated, careful way this is a beautiful performance.

I've been addressing fanciers who already know these works and want comparisons to old favorites. To anyone coming upon this great music new, this new CD can be recommended wholeheartedly. I had not heard any recordings by the Oregon Sym. in recent years and am pleased that they are in such good shape - Carlos Kalmar is the real thing, and the musicians respond eagerly.
8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Brits vs. Yanks 26 Aug. 2012
By Arnaldo - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
While "Music for a Time of War" is undoubtedly a fitting title for the somber program selected for this SACD, there is a subplot here which has been downplayed by the producers. The point being that after listening to the works of the four composers from both sides of the pond, the lingering impression is that something like "Music for a Brits vs. Yanks War" might have been a more apt description instead.

And in this fictitious musical war, the Brits win hands down. Transferring the setting to a boxing match, on one corner we get heavyweights such as Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem and Vaughan Williams' 4th Symphony, both uncontested champions. But on the other, we get an unexpectedly lightweight Charles Ives with The Unanswered Question and the barely featherweight John Adams with The Wound-Dresser. The result is a total mismatch in that while the Ives piece that opens the disc is at least short and innocuous, the following 20:18 long Adams piece overstays its welcome by some 20 slow moving minutes.

The shortcomings of the program are partly mitigated by the usual high-standards of the Soundmirror recording team, doing the honors for the PentaTone label. But even here, in a rare misstept for the engineers, the Wound-Dresser might have felt less tiring if the baritone singer had been de-emphasized and better mixed with the orchestra. Mind you though, that while a bit of audio magic could have disguised the disconnect between soloist and ensemble, the fault lies primarily with the composer. Fortunately though, Soundmirror's Midas touch can still be heard in the rest of this incredibly natural (and quiet) live recording, with plenty of air around the instruments, all precisely placed in a vast stereo soundstage.

Last but not least, conductor Carlos Kalmar extracts a wonderful and engaging performance from the Oregon Symphony. Their controlled energy is a perfect match for Britten and Williams, even managing to somewhat ameliorate Adams' monotony with their velvety string tone. In the end though, while my quibble with the program is obviously a matter of personal taste, this recording feels like a classic case of the woulda coulda shoulda syndrome. But in spite of my nit-picking, it's still getting plenty of playtime, albeit with a little help from the skip button.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Ives & Copland 27 May 2015
By Aimee Brandt - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
No review necessary. Ives and other geniuses.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Music in the Time of War 7 Feb. 2013
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A captivating album because of its complexity and moods. Superbly recorded by an orchestra that is ranking itself as an orchestra on a worldwide scale. Difficult music to play and sometimes difficult to dicipher until unexpectedly you hear a rumbling of musical tones that is a reminder of War, its human tragedies and victories. The music can be solemn and later brilliant because of the expertise if its leader, Maestro Kalmar who sets the mood in each and every selection. Bravo for making this CD different as well as a masterpiece!!
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