Herrmann: Moby Dick, Sinfonietta Hybrid SACD, SACD
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Bernard Herrmann, born in New York in 1911 to Russian immigrants, is best known today as a composer of film music. Most notably he worked with Alfred Hitchcock on classic productions such as North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho, as well as on Orson Welless Citizen Kane and Martin Scorseses Taxi Driver. But despite his strong ties to Hollywood, Herrmann always thought of himself as a composer who worked in film, and never as a mere film composer. It was during his years as conductor and composer with the CBS Symphony Orchestra that Herrmann got the inspiration for Moby Dick A Cantata. Initially, Herrmann intended the work as an opera, but he soon concluded that the stage was not an ideal medium for a musical version of Moby Dick and a purely orchestral work could not make use of Herman Melvilles prose. A successful compromise was the cantata form, and Herrmann completed the work in 1938. It was premiered by John Barbirolli and the New York Philharmonic on 11 April 1940, the conductor describing the work as the most important work that he had heard from a young American composer. For a short period in the early 1930s, Herrmann was inspired by the works of Arnold Schoenberg and his followers. The infatuation did not last long. It culminated and ended with the Sinfonietta for Strings of 1935 36, a work which never received a public performance. The Sinfonietta remained forgotten until the early 1960s when Herrmann adopted it as a model for the latter half of his famous film score to Hitchcocks Psycho, which illustrates Norman Batess disturbed state of mind. This disc presents the premiere recording of the Sinfonietta in its original version. The works are performed by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, joined by the Danish National Choir in Moby Dick, under the direction of Michael Schønwandt, Music Director of the Royal Danish Orchestra and the Royal Opera in Copenhagen, and Principal Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic. This is a Hybrid SACD.
Bernard Herrmann is recognised as one of the greatest film composers, with credits from Citizen Kane to Taxi Driver. But his career before he moved to Hollywood tends to be overlooked. In the 1930s and 40s, he was an active conductor of new music, championing Charles Ives among others, and composing for the concert hall both works on this disc were written during this period. The Sinfonietta for strings was his first published work, completed in 1936, but never performed at the time; Herrmann revised it in 1975, though he had already recycled some of the material in his score for Hitchcock's Psycho in 1960. This is the first recording of the original version, a strikingly well-crafted piece in five short movements, fascinating above all for its debt to the Second Viennese School, in what was to be a short-lived flirtation with modernism. The Moby Dick Cantata is very different, much closer to the world of Herrmann's later film music. What began as an opera on Melville's novel morphed into this cantata, first performed in New York in 1940, conducted by John Barbirolli. It's a mix of imposing choral set-pieces, orchestral interludes and solo narrations and this Danish performance captures its immediacy. Having such an English-sounding tenor, Richard Edgar-Wilson, in the role of the narrator Ishmael is a bit disconcerting, but another British singer, baritone David Wilson-Johnson, is superb as the manic Captain Ahab.**** --Guardian,29/09/11
In surround sound it is simply stunning with vivid singing and playing,all of the highest order.Thoroughly enjoyable and worthy of exploration. EDITORS CHOICE --Gramophone,Dec'11
Top Customer Reviews
I preferred the soloists on the Unicorn performance (which I had on LP) but I am unwilling to pay the price asked or the CD and this Danish Ensemble are a more than capable alternative. Well worth the money.