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Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Mambo from West Side Story
Hoe-Down from Rodeo
Manuel de FALLA
Ritual Fire Dance
Cuban Overture
Pacific 231
Erich Wolfgang KORGOLD
Military March
Alexander MOSSOLOV
The Iron Foundry
Gavotte from Cinderella
Maurice RAVEL
Pavane pour une infante défunte
Journey through Moscow
Green from November Steps
 Hamburg Staatsorchester Philharmonic Ingo Metzmacher
DDD - recorded live Musikhalle, Hamburg, 31/12/00.
 EMI CDC5 57129-2 [78.35]
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At the start of the Millennium just over 12 months ago, there was a revolutionary idea put about in Hamburg by the conductor Ingo Metzmacher. This was to set up a New Year Concert (somewhat similar to the Vienna Strauss etc. concert on New Year's morning) for the citizens of Hamburg. The only difference was that instead of music by the Strauss family, Hamburg would have a musical party where the content of the concert would be strictly of works from the 20th Century.

EMI made a recording of the first Concert and this was a good seller as a result of the publicity the event was given. We are now a year on from that first event, and the concert was repeated, albeit using different works. This was also recorded and the disc entitled "Who is Afraid of 20th Century Music - Volume 2", has now reached us.

The result is a splendid disc, well performed and recorded with the minimum of audience noise and a riotous sense of enjoyment. Clapping after each item (and halfway through the Copland item), but no matter - Great fun.

The music consists of the well known, Gershwin's tuneful and highly rhythmic Cuban Overture (full of tropical atmosphere), Falla's Ritual Fire Dance, Ravel's beautiful Pavane played here with much sensitivity, and Copland's Hoe Down from Rodeo. This catches the audience by surprise by not finishing when a number of them suspected, and the highly excitable Mambo from West Side Story (with vocal contributions from members of the orchestra) completes the popular items.

In addition, we hear more out of the way items, but still reasonably well known to average music lovers. These include Honegger's Pacific 231, making its usual very powerful impact and Stravinsky's Fireworks obviously captivating the audience. We also hear the Gavotte from Prokofiev's Cinderella (this time not the Classical Symphony) making a welcome appearance.

The final group of works represented here will be very well known to a minority of listeners but largely unknown to the vast majority, which is possibly the reason for this type of concert in the first place. There is a natural reluctance to embrace the unknown and Metzmacher and his band certainly take on the task with the utmost relish.

We have John Adams going on a Short Ride in a Fast Machine which I find somewhat repetitive, but I suppose that is what minimalism is all about. In the middle of the piece, the orchestra's rhythm goes very slightly awry, but all ends well with an enthusiastic response from the audience.

Toru Takemitsu is an acquired taste for some, but this excerpt from November Steps (arguably his best known orchestral work) shimmers with its pseudo-gamelan effects in the middle sounding very effective.

More minimalism with Michael Daugherty's Desi, with pop influences clearly audible. There is a nice twist at the end which produces a very positive response.

After that the Military March of Erich Wolfgang Korngold sounds positively old fashioned. It is not particularly well known the composer being relatively obscure (until about ten years ago) if we ignore his Hollywood activities. The neglect of the march certainly has nothing to do with any musical considerations. Very enjoyable.

More Cuban inspired music this time from George Antheil. His Archipelago, based on the rhumba is not particularly well known, but on this hearing, well worth the effort, given the context in which it finds itself.

The Shostakovich piece from the Suite from Cheremushki is typical Shostakovich in his ironic, galop mood. Again a very good choice, as it would have been easier to select a similar piece from, say, The Age of Gold.

Alexander Mossolov's famous or rather infamous picture of an Iron Foundry makes its usual impact, although here the performance fails to remove memories of the piece as recorded by Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw - admittedly a studio performance.

John Phillips

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