Taylor and Griffes: One of Gerard Schwarz’s Best Discs

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 8

Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony recorded a great deal of music, originally for Delos, now on Naxos. Much of the discography, while good, was ephemeral—yet another disc of standard repertoire—but some of it was really important: symphonies by Hanson, Piston, and Diamond, for example, and this disc. No one much cares today about music critic/composer Deems Taylor’s often charming but conservative music, but his suite Through the Looking Glass, based on Alice in Wonderland, really is worth hearing. If you know John Alden Carpenter’s Adventures in a Perambulator then you know what to expect: good tunes, colorful scoring, and a nice, light touch.

The Griffes pieces are famous, of course, as the works of one of America’s great “might have been” composers. The Poem for Flute and Orchestra is the best known, followed by the exotic Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan and The White Peacock. These evocative miniatures all point to a major talent, a life tragically cut short at the age of 36. Both here and in the Taylor work the performances are uniformly splendid: extremely well played, and just about perfectly conducted regarding tempo, texture, and balance. Scott Goff plays the flute solo in the Poem with finesse and lovely tone.

The original Delos recordings always were a bit low-level and dull on top, but this one at least has transferred well, once you find a comfortable volume setting. A great disc for collectors of turn-of-the-(20th)-century Americana.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: No reference recording

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