Wallingford Riegger's Fantasy and Fugue was originally designated on the cover of the manuscript score as “Atonal”—but this was scratched out (possibly with the thought of chicken-hearted conductors and even more timid audiences). The opening section of the music is an extended Sostenuto 6/8 episode in which the organ plays an important coloristic and harmonic role. Incipient dance elements make their appearance in a 5/8 Scherzando. A slowing of tempo paves the way for the fugue, in which the strings lead off (Allegro–12/8).
Riegger wrote “This is far from being a purely theoretical fugue. Each of the three subjects has been conceived for a particular choir of the orchestra, one being for strings, one for woodwinds, and one for brass, an arrangement which, however, does not preclude an occasional shift of roles. When the fugue is fairly well under way, an atonal and many-voiced chorale is announced, phrase by phrase in the violins— pianissimo—while the fugal themes continue their sharply rhythmic progress. After a brief interim the chorale reappears in inverted form, still in the background, played this time by the brass and woodwinds, the fugue continuing restlessly in many kinds of stretti. Meanwhile the organ weaves into the polyphonic texture, threading its way among the higher woodwinds or lower strings, but not asserting itself positively till near the close, where against the fortissimo agitation of the entire orchestra it intones the broad strains of the chorale, overwhelming the warring rhythms of strings, winds, and percussion, as eventually cosmic forces must dominate over humanity’s ceaseless striving.”
Composing directly on magnetic tape was a development of the mid-1950s, and synthesizing musical sounds for this medium by sophisticated electronic devices has since become a familiar activity in the world’s musical centers. Otto Luening’s Synthesis for Orchestra and Electronic Sound combines structures made on the R.C.A. Synthesizer with structures made of sounds produced by cruder machines—the strings, winds, and skins of the nineteenth-century symphony orchestra. It was commissioned in 1960 by Broadcast Music, Inc., for its twentieth anniversary, and the composer conducted its premiere with the Erie Philharmonic in 1965 on the occasion of that organization’s fiftieth anniversary.
Fantasia for Organ states its theme in deep and strong accents, of almost passacaglia-like effect. It passes to a section of relative tranquillity and the third and more contrapuntal section is prepared by a pedal note above which the higher parts break away in a true mood of fantasy.
Colin McPhee was best known to American audiences as a musical exoticist during a period when exoticism was less than fashionable. This reputation resulted from the composer’s visit to the island of Bali and his residence there from 1931 to 1939, during which time he became expert in the clangorous music of Indonesia. Several of his subsequent compositions were in Balinese style, creating by imaginative use of the Western orchestra the chiming sounds of the gamelan. The most famous of these works is his Tabuh-Tabuhan (1936), a three-movement piece of symphonic proportions. Another is the Nocturne recorded here.
Nocturne for chamber orchestra was commissioned by the Contemporary Music Society and had its premiere in the Metropolitan Museum of Art under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. It is in one movement and has been described as impressionistic, modal, and of deliberate exoticism.
This title, originally issued on the CRI label, is now available as a burn-on-demand CD (CD-R) or download in MP3/320, FLAC or WAV formats. CD-Rs come in a protective sleeve; no print booklet or jewel case included. Full liner notes are accessible via the link above.
We have preserved the original CRI LP catalog number for this title, preceded by the prefix NWCRL, to distinguish previously unavailable back catalog titles from those later reissued by CRI on compact disc.