Riegger, Becker & Ives: Orchestral Works
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCRL177     Release Date: 2010-06-01
Jan Henrik Kayser piano; Members of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra; Iceland Symphony Orchestra; Iceland State Radio Chorus; William Strickland, conductor

Though Wallingford Riegger’s fame has been as a stylistic radical, his training both in America and in Germany had been in the strict classic tradition, with the result that when he set about to write a piece in traditional classic style, he did so as a real master. Such an essay is the Canon and Fugue recorded here, composed in 1941 and based, said Riegger, on a student exercise. Its first performance was at the 1942 ISCM Festival at Berkeley, California. The composer later re-scored the music for full orchestra. Richard Franko Goldman in his Musical Quarterly article of January 1950 describes the Canon and Fugue as “a noble work that succeeds in evoking the atmosphere of the 17th century.” Its layout is simple enough: an opening 3/4 sostenuto episode in canonic texture; a fugue (allegro non troppo 4/4) straightforward in substance (derived from the basic sostenuto theme), but richly elaborate in device; then a return to the opening sostenuto with two additional bars by way of coda.

Completed in November of 1930 and performed for the first time on December 7, 1931 at St. Thomas College in St. Paul with Elsie Wolf Campbell as soloist and the composer conducting, John J. Becker's Concerto Arabesque is scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, contrabassoon, horn, trumpet, and strings. A note on the face of the score indicates that performance may be either with small orchestra or with 12 solo instruments. The sonic conception of the piece, as it turns out, is that of chamber music, but it is chamber music sonority of a special kind - akin to the sharply separated tonal colorations that emerge from a small baroque organ with a wealth of mixture stops. Certainly Becker’s thoughts on orchestration as set forth in an article published in the February 1950 issue of Musical America point to a very thorough understanding of the manner in which the combination tones arising out of secundal harmonies can produce timbres of extraordinary brilliant and penetrating quality. He was also acutely aware of the possibilities of the pure percussion orchestra, as witness the 20-minute dance work Abongo, dating from 1933 and scored for 29 percussion instruments.

According to Henry and Sydney Cowell in their book, Charles Ives and his Music (Oxford University Press, New York, 1955), Thanksgiving - or more properly Thanksgiving and/or Forefathers’ Day — had its origin in an organ postlude that he played for a Thanksgiving Service at New Haven’s Center Church back in 1897, where he was organist during his student days at Yale. Ives in his later years considered this to be his first good piece composed “away from the rule book.” The Cowells paraphrase Ives’ own description of the work as follows:

“The Postlude starts with C-minor and D-minor together, and later major and minor chords together, a tone apart. This was to represent the sternness and strength and austerity of the Puritan character, and it seemed that any of the major, minor or diminished chords used alone gave a feeling of bodily ease which the Puritan did not give in to. There is also in this some free counterpoint in different keys, and rhythms going together. There is a scythe or reaping harvest theme which is a kind of off-beat, off-key counterpoint. Six or eight years later (sometime before we left 65 Central Park West in the fall of 1906), these 2 pieces were arranged as a single movement for orchestra.”


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Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

Riegger, Becker & Ives: Orchestral Works

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Track Listing

Canon and Fugue in D minor
Wallingford Riegger
Buy
Concerto Arabesque for Piano and Orchestra
John J. Becker
Buy
New England Holidays: IV. Thanksgiving
Charles Ives
Buy