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5.0 out of 5 stars Quite A Find, 23 Dec. 2004
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. The Overture To Macbeth from 1864 was one of his last works. A fine dramatic work that is also a bit of a curiosity. Here Fry is writing about a play set in a Scottish civil war at the height of the American Civil War.
The playing of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is simply superb as is Tony Rowe's conducting. Quite an accomplishment for works that they are playing for the first time. Naxos' notes indicates there are a wealth of other Fry works out there and one hopes they will record more. His music is just too good to be ignored.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh, vital and endearing!, 19 Aug. 2013
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars william henry fry santa claus symphony, 21 Dec. 2012
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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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