TANSMAN: Symphony No. 5 (1942); "Stèle in Memoriam d'Igor Stravinsky" (1972); Four Movements for Orchestra (1968); Meir Minsky conducting the Czecho-Slavak State Philharmonic Orchestra (Kosice). MARCO POLO 8 223379 [DDD]; 69:37.


"Paul Snook, music critic of "Fanfare", the distinguished American magazine for serious record collectors, has selected the CD conducted by Meir Minsky of music by Alexander Tansman with the Czech-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra to "The Want List 1993". The list includes the top five newly released CDs of 1993. Among the group of five are CDs performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony and the Philharmonia Orchestra of London."

Fanfare

The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors

"Just a few months back this listener, in the course or reviewing an integral recording of the Tansman string quartets, was wondering wistfully whether we'd ever see just such a release as this dazzling survey of three representative orchestral works?the perfect and precise answer to our prayers! As the years go by, I believe this Polish-born, adopted-Parisian Stravinsky-buddy, who spent World War II in Hollywood?will start looming as a larger presence than many of his fellow "École de Paris" expatriates. After all, though the Stravinsky of the Diaghilev period did have a seminal impact on his style, like the other Stravinskyan, the Italian Casella (see elsewhere in this issue), Tansman quickly forged a signature-idiom that was all his own and that in his case he continued to adapt and refine and extend throughout a prolific seventy-year span. In addition, he was a masterly orchestrator capable of weaving a rich coloristic warp and contrapuntal woof of multilayered sonorities, as this program of first recordings so abundantly attests. The Fifth Symphony of 1942 is a fine example of middle-period Tansman, when he had well-nigh perfected his characteristic idiom made up of dense clusters of open chords and syncopated cross-rhythms, where overlapping waves?or lyrical vortices?of sound cumulatively build and converge to a dissonant and visionary paroxysmic (or orgasmic?) climax before suddenly receding and dying out to an "all-passion-spent" kind of subsidence. This four-movement, twenty-eight-minute work reaches a sort of peak with one of Tansman's most intricately ingenious scherzos, but the colossal and almost terrifying sequence of chords announcing the finale is also most memorable. The two remaining works come from Tansman's later years?when his harmonic palette had become more chromatically suffused and even serial-like elements had slyly begun to creep in. The 1968 Four Movements is constructed almost on the scale of a symphony?or at least an elaborate symphonic suite, consisting of a sinister but seductive Notturno, a quicksilver -Perpetuum mobile, an ominous Elegy, and a furious closing Ostinato, where all four movements, in their motivic economy and concentration, as well as a conspicuous interest in percussive filigree, demonstrate Tansman?s never-ending curiosity about novel instrumental textures. One of the best fruits of this development is the 1972 "Stèle in memoriam d'Igor Stravinsky", commissioned by the French government, which, though initially conceived as a commemorative gesture, now seems more like an extravagant celebration of the irrepressible Russian and his ever-questing sonic imagination, in both its austerely hieratic guise as well as its more barbaric peasant embodiment. Not merely an occasional score, its three movements (Elegia; Studio ritmico; Lamento) last some sixteen minutes and call for bells and chimes, at times somewhat à la Messiaen, with repetitive note-patterns as well as a famous chord sequence from "Petrouchka" used as the basis for the Laniento?which is hardly ever really funereal in tone. The work is obviously an act of homage to a great precursor from one of his most devoted but insightful disciples, yet it always sounds like Tansman , not Igor. All these works make such a forceful and vivid impression because conductor Minsky has the full measure of Tansman and his complex dynamics. As this once-provincial Czech orchestra adds to its discography of unusual repertoire for Marco Polo, it begins to perform more and more like the virtuoso, cosmopolitan ensemble such endeavors require. This is one of the label's best releases to date and is a surefire candidate for our 1993 Want List. This reviewer can't remember when a disc gave him such an unalloyed and multitudinous access of auditory pleasure. TRY IT!!"

Paul A. Snook