Barber: Capricorn Concerto, etc.

Barber: Capricorn Concerto, etc.

by Marin Alsop
     
 

Winding up her highly acclaimed series of Samuel Barber's orchestral works, Marin Alsop has saved some lesser-known gems for last. In fact, considering how underrepresented all of these works are on disc, this might be the most essential volume in the whole six-disc cycle. Barber's lively Capricorn Concerto alone is worth Naxos'See more details below

Overview

Winding up her highly acclaimed series of Samuel Barber's orchestral works, Marin Alsop has saved some lesser-known gems for last. In fact, considering how underrepresented all of these works are on disc, this might be the most essential volume in the whole six-disc cycle. Barber's lively Capricorn Concerto alone is worth Naxos' budget price. This is an atypical work for Barber, its spiky neo-Classicism suggesting Stravinsky, while its instrumentation -- for solo trumpet, oboe, and flute, with string orchestra -- pays direct homage to Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2. The playful Mutations from Bach, scored for brass and timpani, also shows the Baroque composer's importance for Barber. The oboist heard in the Capricorn Concerto, Stéphane Rancourt, gets another solo outing in Barber's final composition, a Canzonetta for oboe and strings that could have been the centerpiece of a full concerto had Barber lived to complete it. This music's yearning lyricism is recognizably the work of the composer of the famous Adagio for Strings, a kinship that is also evident in another late work, the delicate and oddly titled (after James Joyce) Fadograph of a Yestern Scene. Barber's versatility takes another turn in A Hand of Bridge -- a jazzy comic opera, just ten minutes long, that exposes the hidden obsessions of four characters who are ostensibly engaged in a friendly game of cards -- while his most successful opera, Vanessa, is represented by a gorgeously lush Intermezzo salvaged from its last act. Spanning the second half of Barber's career, this program adds up to much more than the sum of its parts, with Alsop convincingly following every twist and turn of the composer's imagination, just as she has throughout this superb series of recordings.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Uncle Dave Lewis
Barber: Capricorn Concerto concludes Naxos American Classics' six-disc survey of the complete orchestral music of Samuel Barber as performed by Marin Alsop and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Far from being a collection of odds and ends, this gathering of lesser-known material directly contrasts the optimistic and extroverted moods of Barber's early and mid-periods with more insular, personal, and retiring music dating from his last years. One wonders why the "Capricorn Concerto" is so seldom recorded -- its mixture of sunny idealism and worried counterpoint is every bit as appealing as Stravinsky's "Dumbarton Oaks Concerto." In 1959, Howard Hanson made a recording of this work with the Eastman-Rochester Pops Orchestra, which was so good perhaps the record companies decided we didn't need another one! One thing this Naxos recording has that the Hanson does not is a true sense of sonic depth, and in this work it is good to hear the loud music "loudly" and the quiet music "quietly." Barber's micro-opera "A Hand of Bridge" is an unusual choice for a collection devoted to orchestral music, but here it works well, helping break up and vary the overall program. The singing is decent, but mezzo-soprano Louise Winter seems to make the most of her part. Oboist Stéphane Rancourt is given top billing among the soloists on the back cover, and rightly so. Rancourt not only plays well in his feature, the "Canzonetta for oboe & strings," but is noticeably good in every instance on the disc where the oboe appears. "Mutations from Bach" is a late-period oddity for brass that nonetheless shares some common ground with Elliott Carter's "A Fantasy About Purcell's Fantasia on One Note"; this reviewer had never before heard it, and perhaps the element of surprise it inspired here will be felt likewise by the listener. The remaining pieces are handled by Alsop with tender loving care. "Fadograph of a Yestern Scene" is particularly well shaped and atmospherically true, and yet none of Barber's works are looked upon as secondary, an aspect of this project that sets it apart from the competition. Barber: Capricorn Concerto is a fine conclusion to what has proven a useful, edifying, and highly engaging set of recordings of a composer we all thought we knew, but certainly do know better now.

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Product Details

Release Date:
02/22/2005
Label:
Naxos American
UPC:
0636943913529
catalogNumber:
8559135
Rank:
223301

Tracks

  1. Fadograph of a Yestern Scene, for orchestra (after Joyce: "Finnegan's Wake"), Op. 44  - Samuel Barber  - Marin Alsop  -  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
  2. Canzonetta for oboe & piano (arr. for oboe & strings by C. Turner), Op. 48 posth.  - Samuel Barber  - Marin Alsop  -  Royal Scottish National Orchestra  - Stephane Rancourt
  3. Mutations from Bach (on "Christe, Du Lamm Gottes"), for brass ensemble & timpani  - Samuel Barber  - Marin Alsop  -  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
  4. A Hand of Bridge, chamber opera, Op. 35  - Samuel Barber  - Marin Alsop  -  Royal Scottish National Orchestra  - Roderick Williams  - Louise Winter  - Simon Wall  - Lesley Craigie
  5. Capricorn Concerto, for flute, oboe, trumpet & strings, Op. 21  - Samuel Barber  - Marin Alsop  - John Gracie  - Karen Jones  -  Royal Scottish National Orchestra  - Stephane Rancourt

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