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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting and evocative orchestral works, 22 Jan. 2010
I have to agree with my fellow reviewer, this really is a delightful hour's worth of uplifting music and fine music-making.

Karl Goldmark's `Rustic Wedding Symphony' is a rather loosely assembled piece, more of a suite than a symphony proper, and seems to be the main work that keeps his name alive (though many of his other compositions are well worth hearing and the still-performed violin concerto in particular is a real gem). In five movements, a scheme perhaps suggested by Schumann's `Rhenish' symphony, it certainly lives up to the bucolic suggestions of its title. The first movement, rather than a symphonic `allegro' proper, is a fifteen minute set of variations on an ingratiating melody (titled `Wedding March') that once heard is difficult to forget. A central dance-like movement over a droning bass line serves as a scherzo and that movement is framed by two `slow' movements of heart-warming tenderness, beautifully and sensitively orchestrated - in fact all the works here bear witness to the composer's mastery of the orchestra. The finale, working in recollections of music heard earlier in the symphony, neatly ties the whole together and rounds the work off in a mood of celebratory bonhomie.

The two overtures maintain the same air of sunlit exuberance in combination with passages of sweet-toned lyricism. `In Spring' opens with a radiant theme for the strings and during the overture's course woodwind evoke various birdcalls to charming effect. The bright orchestral textures of `In Italy' evoke a similarly sunny world, the overture being notable for its breezy opening bars for the full orchestra, underpinned by the timpani; there is some delicious writing for the woodwind section here too - the spirit of the dance is not far away from much of this music - and an exquisitely scored, romantic interlude from around 3'30" onwards that includes a solo violin; it provides time to draw breath and relax before the boisterous music of the opening returns to carry the work forward to its exhilarating close.

The sound quality is very good, wonderfully clear and warm, with all the detail of Goldmark's scoring picked up. There is nothing to complain about in these affectionate and lively performances from the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland under Stephen Gunzenhauser either. All in all, this is great disc that's well worth picking up at Naxos' prices and would still amply repay your investment were it issued on a more expensive label.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Unique symphony that starts with theme and variations, and ends the same, 21 Mar. 2015
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I first heard this, years ago, as an undergraduate student, and member of a Recorded Music Society. I probably heard it once. In my memory I connected it with Bach's "Peasant Cantata", and Weinberger's "Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper", and Beethoven's "Pastoral", and Chabrier's rustic pictureseque pieces. Rural. Rustic. Bruegelian. Jolly. Reminiscent, also, of the Mechanics in Mendelsohnn's "Midsummer's Eve". But is it properly symphonic?
Then I heard it recently on radio, and immediately remembered the theme. "How Brahmsian", I thought, surprised at how much of the piece I remembered, although that is the attraction of "theme and variations" -- they stick in your memory.
I bought this for my young grandsons, knowing their Classically-minded parents wouldn't have it, or know it.
This must be one of the most unusual symphonies ever written -- beginning with a theme and variations. Perhaps more of an orchestral suite than a symphonic argument and journey. Or maybe it is just a different way of travelling, and, celebrating a wedding, why should there be an argument of tonic versus dominant?
Good theme-and-variation pieces are to be treasured. This is one of them!
Sometimes a one-hit wonder is still wonderful. This is one of those times!
John Gough -- Deakin University (retired) --
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rustic charm, 28 Mar. 2009
This is a lovely, melodic work, played here with spirit and grace by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. The variation first movement is beautifully modulated and a taste of what's to come: delicate and refined in the lovely andante, joyous and rumbustious in the finale. The two overtures which accompany the main course are similarly charming and very well played. Good, clean recorded sound. At this price it's a real steal.
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