Coerne/Burnlingame/Carpenter: Excalibur-Stevensoniana Suite etc

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 7

This is a very welcome reissue on CD, despite sonics that are starting to show their age. Karl Krueger may not have been the most dynamic conductor around, but he was both reliable and he had the Royal Philharmonic at his disposal. The result is a disc of fine performances despite the unfamiliarity of the music. Louis Coerne’s Excalibur is a big sloppy lump of fake (Richard) Strauss, more thickly and primitively scored, without a single memorable idea or identifiable link to its subject matter. Or maybe it’s Bax on a bad day. Hearing it, you easily can understand the composer’s posthumous descent into near-total obscurity (he died in 1922). Still, it’s only 13 minutes long and a genuine curiosity in its way. Everything else on the disc is well worth hearing.

Like Elgar’s Wand of Youth, Edward Hill’s lovely First Stevensoniana Suite is a delightful homage to childhood written very much with adults in mind. The music is tuneful and skillfully orchestrated and makes a good case for some record label to put out a complete set of all of the suites. Until then, this will do nicely. Horatio Parker’s A Northern Ballad certainly withstands comparison to similar works of the English school (such as Vaughan Williams) and is cut from similar cloth. John Alden Carpenter’s Sea Drift is a splendid tone poem very different from Delius’ work for voices and orchestra. It has been recorded a couple of times, most notably with the Albany Symphony for New World. This performance is a bit dreamier and richer in texture, if not as well engineered. Certainly collectors of early 20th century American composers will need no special urging from me. Come and get it!



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for this coupling

LOUIS COERNE - Excalibur
EDWARD BURLINGAME HILL - Stevensoniana Suite No. 1
HORATIO PARKER - A Northern Ballad
JOHN ALDEN CARPENTER - Sea-Drift


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