Barber: Knoxville - Summer of 1915; Essays for Orchestra Nos. 2 & 3

Barber: Knoxville - Summer of 1915; Essays for Orchestra Nos. 2 & 3

5.0 1
by Marin Alsop
     
 

Hearing Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin sing "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" is almost like hearing it for the first time. She and Marin Alsop, leading the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, manage to wipe the cobwebs off an exquisite piece that's in danger of being perceived as a warhorse, given the frequency with whichSee more details below

Overview

Hearing Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin sing "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" is almost like hearing it for the first time. She and Marin Alsop, leading the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, manage to wipe the cobwebs off an exquisite piece that's in danger of being perceived as a warhorse, given the frequency with which it's programmed and the number of undistinguished performances it receives. Gauvin sings with absolutely pure tone and unmannered simplicity. She tends to slightly drop the ends of her phrases so that her delivery sounds conversational and intimate, just right for James Agee's evocative prose poem. Her attention to the details of the text and to their place in the architecture of the whole work is practically miraculous; every word is meaningfully but naturally and unselfconsciously placed. The right sense of timing and linking its many sectional shifts is crucial in this delicate score, which passes through a wide range of moods in its brief span, and Alsop seamlessly brings it together. Alsop's tempos tend to be more leisurely than is usual for the piece, especially when compared to the snappy premiere recording with Eleanor Steber and William Strickland, but they feel just right. An altogether revelatory performance. Barber wrote three "Essays for Orchestra," in 1937, 1942, and 1978, and the Second and Third are included here. The Second is the rightfully the best known and most frequently performed, and Alsop leads the orchestra in an impassioned reading of the emotionally mercurial score. The Third, in spite of a gap of 35 years, shows little stylistic change from the Second, but its tone is generally more lyrical and melancholy, with little of the white-hot intensity of its predecessor. "Toccata Festiva" is essentially a brief concerto for organ and orchestra. Thomas Trotter plays with virtuoso part with ease and panache, but the organ sounds distant and lacks the prominence it should have. The sound in the other three works is clean, warm, and well-balanced.

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Editorial Reviews

Gramophone - Andrew Farach-Colton
[June 2004 CD of the Month] With deeply expressive playing from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the result is ravishing.... This is one of the finest versions of Knoxville to date. Alsop's taughtly argued Second Essay is equally satisfying.... Strongly recommended.
Birmingham Post - David Hart
Barber's lusciously evocative setting of childhood reminiscences [Knoxville: Summer of 1915] is beautifully sung by Karina Gauvin, who brings to James Agee's words a beautifully lustrous, clear tone (if not perfect diction) while Marin Alsop's conducting reveals many felicitous touches.... Much more satisfying, both musically and interpretatively, are the two Essays for Orchestra, which Alsop and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra deliver with glowing panache, delicacy and obvious affection.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/18/2004
Label:
Naxos American
UPC:
0636943913420
catalogNumber:
8559134
Rank:
133030

Tracks

  1. Toccata Festiva for organ & orchestra, Op. 36  - Samuel Barber  - Marin Alsop  -  Royal Scottish National Orchestra  - Thomas Trotter
  2. Third Essay, for orchestra, Op. 47  - Samuel Barber  - Marin Alsop  -  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
  3. Second Essay, for orchestra, Op. 17  - Samuel Barber  - Marin Alsop  -  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
  4. Knoxville: Summer of 1915, for high voice & orchestra (rev. for voice & chamber orchestra), Op. 24  - Samuel Barber  - James Agee  - Marin Alsop  -  Royal Scottish National Orchestra  - Karina Gauvin

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