Herrmann composed some of the best-known film music ever written — especially the scores he wrote for Alfred Hitchcock. Now a new CD shows another side of Herrmann that’s equally memorable […] The variety of music on this CD –colorful, romantic, witty, patriotic, nerve-wracking– shows how much Bernard Herrmann’s concert and radio music equaled the astonishing range of his work for film.
Each new album by PostClasical Ensemble and its director, Ángel Gil-Ordóñez, is both a surprise and a discovery. The deserved result of investigating beyond the predictable. And this new album of his is not an exception in his line, but the joyous confirmation of it.
The disc as a whole showcases not only Herrmann’s compositional skill but also the ability of Gil-Ordóñez and PostClassical Ensemble repeatedly to bring neglected material to life, or rather back to life.
Like many successful Hollywood composers, Bernard Herrmann pursued musical endeavours beyond (in his time) the celluloid. Studies at Juilliard were followed by conducting posts with the New Chamber Orchestra of New York and the CBS Symphony Orchestra, with which he championed music by major figures of the day, including Ives, even as he wrote music for radio programmes and composed concert works and, eventually, movie scores. Herrmann’s versatility in three genres – radio, chamber music and film – is captured on this absorbing recording featuring the PostClassical Ensemble, an experimental orchestral laboratory in residence at the Washington National Cathedral.
The film composer Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975) also liked to compose radio plays. One such work is Whitman, whose theme is Walt Whitman’s collection of poems Leaves of Grass. Declamatorily well narrated by William Sharp in the role of Whitman, the work is played with great musical sensitivity and fine nuances by the PostClassical Ensemble under the American-Spanish conductor Angel Gil-Ordóñez.
Angel Gil-Ordóñez seems to have stolen Eduard Toldrà’s baton, the tempos rush, the rhythms sharpen, the timbres fuse, making the work what it should be, a whirlwind, and leading in a skillful accelerando the tender or heroic episodes up to the carnage and the loving proclamation of the knight errant.
There have been a couple of recordings of El amor brujo in its original, two-act chamber version of 1915, but this one is as fine as any and just might be the best around. Conductor Angel Gil-Ordóñez chooses ideal tempos, the members of the Perspectives Ensemble play beautifully, and everyone seems genuinely involved in projecting Falla’s characterful instrumental parts with just the right combination of precision and warmth (…) Once again the performance is excellent from all concerned, and both pieces are very well recorded.
Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo is best known nowadays in the form of the one-act ballet pantomime, first performed in 1924. But it began in 1915 as a much less conventional dance piece, involving spoken narrations and a cantaora, a flamenco singer, with an ensemble of just 15 players. Though the Naxos recording from the Perspectives Ensemble under Angel Gil-Ordóñez claims to be of that 1915 version, it actually uses a much larger body of strings than the original. But with Esperanza Fernández as the cantaora, there’s no lack of bite and raw intensity, and paired with an equally pungent account of another of Falla’s utterly original music-theatre pieces, the chamber opera El Retablo de Maese Pedro, it’s a really desirable bargain.
On the one hand, it is slimmer, fresher and more colorful than the revised version, but on the other it is also more sensual. The wonderful flamenco singer Esperanza Fernandez also gives the music a lot of authenticity. Gil-Ordóñez conducts very lively and with great intensity. The small chamber opera El Retablo de Maese Pedro uses an episode from Cervantes’s Don Quixote and is characterized by a very unusual instrumentation. In this recording it gets exquisite colours and a thrilling rhythm. Jennifer Zetlan is outstanding in the role of the little Trujaman, and tenor Jorge Garza as Master Pedro and baritone Alfredo Garcia as Don Quixote are also convincing. The recorded sound is also excellent, so that this is a highly recommendable production.
Although generally deemed the greatest Spanish composer of the first part of the 20th century, Manuel de Falla remains something of an acquired taste outside his homeland. Really first-rate performances of his music, such as those led by Angel Gil-Ordóñez on a new Naxos CD, help explain why.
This performance of El retablo goes straight to the top of my list of preferred versions, and I consider the El amor brujo to be very nearly the equal of Toscanini’s in performance quality and, of course, far superior in sound.
The result of this recording is simply magnificent. Tim Fain and Michael Borinskin are soloists of great class, and Angel Gil-Ordóñez does an extraordinary job at the helm of his PostClassical Ensemble of Washington.
The performances are irreproachable, which make this recording the best introduction ever registered to the work of Harrison.
Three intriguingly special works, extremely well served by the performers. The recording is altogether first class and one superb homage to Lou Harrison for his 100th birthday.
Lou Harrison had a pioneer’s imagination, not least regarding what might be walloped in the name of music – his Violin Concerto calls for flowerpots, plumber’s pipes and clock coils in the percussion. What’s more striking in this performance by Tim Fain, the PostClassical Ensemble and conductor Angel Gil-Ordóñez is the brilliance of his writing for violin, a collision between itchy dance rhythms and soaring lyricism.
Tim Fain plays the work skillfully, and Angel Gil-Ordóñez leads it with his usual flair and sure understanding of music that does not necessarily lend itself to ready comprehension… Gil-Ordóñez brings both knowledge and a sure hand in sound shaping to the performance.
Harrison wrote the first two movements of Concerto for Violin and Percussion in 1940, and revised them when he created the final movement in 1959. Astoundingly modern, it combines a wild battery of percussion with extremely challenging writing for the violin. Amidst its unbounded inventiveness and jollities, Grand Duo also reflects the gravity with which Harrison viewed the world. A proponent of boundary-less societies, he condemned war and violence, and promoted Esperanto as a universal language.
To my innocent ears, the performances from hugely regarded musicians are certainly idiomatic, the violinist, Tim Fain, as a persuasive advocate of the Concerto and Grand Duo. Recordings are derived from 2016 sessions. Harrison wrote the first two movements of Concerto for Violin and Percussion in 1940, and revised them when he created the final movement in 1959. Astoundingly modern, it combines a wild battery of percussion with extremely challenging writing for the violin.
The magnificent score is by Silvestre Revueltas. For this release the entire score is heard in a superb digital recording with the PostClassical Ensemble conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez, recorded in May 2014 at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Angel Gil-Ordóñez and Joseph Horowitz have long been dedicated to rescuing the lost memory of art, works that are not worth losing in amnesia. Gil-Ordóñez is a professor, musician and conductor of the Georgetown University orchestra; Horowitz is a musicologist. Both have now endeavored to remove from oblivion the historic Mexican film Redes, codirected in 1936 by Fred Zinnemann and Emilio Gómez Muriel, with cinematography by Paul Strand. The film chronicles the harsh working conditions of a fishing village in Michoacan in post-revolutionary Mexico.