Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

(b. 1907)
Orchestral works
Icarus (1975)
Rochester PO/David Zinman
rec 4 April 1977 from VOX TV 34705 LP
Genghis Khan (1963)
Louisville Orchestra/Jorge Mester
rec 16 March 1972 Louisville LS722
Bongo Divertimento (1952)
Marvin Dahlgren (percussion)
St Paul Chamber Orchestra/Leopold Sipe
Symphony No. 5 for Strings (1962)
Cincinnati SO/Max Rudolf
rec 1965 issued CRI SD 189

Gene Gutchë was born in Berlin into a family antipathetic to his musical talent. His father was a successful businessman who eventually paid for piano lessons with Busoni. Gutchë studied linguistics, philosophy and business at the universities of Lausanne, Heidelberg and Padua. In 1925 he forsook Germany and then settled in Minnesota where he ultimately became an elder statesman composer. His orchestral skills were sharpened by attendance at rehearsals of the Minneapolis Symphony with Mitropoulos and Dorati. His hour-long Akhenaten Symphony (soli, chorus and orchestra) was premiered by Slatkin and the St Louis in 1983.

ICARUS is a four movement programmatic suite: 1. Cristobal Colon: sparkling, lightly explosive, vehement tarred with the same brush as the dynamic finale of Piston's Second Symphony but collapsing into a quite unDelian dream; 2. sea-jangly percussion and insolent brass suffused with the sea's supernal secrecy and ruffled with sporadic gusts and spits. 3. Insurrection reminiscent of Shostakovich's splenetic energy (symphony no. 12); 4. Isthmus: bragging, swaggering, the strut of Antheil's Capital Of The World.

GENGHIS. Written for an orchestra of triple winds and no strings (apart from basses). Lithe and clean it has a streaming abrasion and a sense of tumultuous right and left hooks. There is a constant pressure applied to both slow and fast music. The pregnant wind motifs at start trace their way back to Rite of Spring.

BONGO DIVERTIMENTO: A sequence that encompasses impatience, a study in the sinister and the phantasmal, the sense of humour undeniable in the portrait of a bluebottle flying around the stage. Audience noise does no harm whatsoever.

SYMPHONY: Compare this work with the contemporaneous William Schuman Symphony No. 5. Ad Rawsthorne's string writing in Symphonic Studies. The first movement is lithe, waspish and Bartokian. The Burletta is an grown up version of Britten's Simple Symphony. The mesto soliloquises ready for a buzzing Lesto which glances slantways at Tippets Concerto for Double String Orchestra - humming and buzzing if not quite at full pelt.

At the end of hearing this disc you may well join with me in wanting to hear the other Gutchë symphonies. His music will draw you in if you take your music spare, with an acid splash of the atonal and without sugary additives.

The booklet is supportive. Sound varies given the very different provenance of each of the four pieces.

Rob Barnett

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