Yet another pupil of the inimitable Nadia Boulanger,
the unlikely-sounding Adolphus Hailstork may not be a familiar name.
His music is so ear-friendly, modest yet consequential that popularity
is surely only a matter of greater exposure. Hailstork's debut on Naxos
- with the weighty Second and Third Symphonies (8.559295 - see review
- was an important start, but it has taken an all-too-long five years
for this follow-up to appear.
The varied selection of works featured here was, according to the information
supplied, recorded on the same day in concert. This makes it an all-the-more
impressive set of performances, particularly from the Virginia Symphony
Orchestra, deftly marshalled by Naxos stalwart JoAnn Falletta. Sound
quality is good, with just a hint of thinness at times. Whatever audience
was present has been expertly edited out.
Hailstork was born in Norfolk, Virginia, making this disc a very homely
affair. The lively, good-humoured concert overture An American Port
is probably the composer's best known work. It was inspired
by his home town and performed by its dedicatee orchestra. The four-movement
neo-Classical-ish First Symphony is strongly Coplandesque, with a dash
of Stravinsky, and thus a work of considerable warmth and charm. The
- a jazzy Everytime I Feel the Spirit
the famous Kum Ba Yah
and a Gershwin-like Oh Freedom
are even more strongly reminiscent of Copland. The short Fanfare on
is more appealing than its title may suggest, and
The odd title of the final work is explained by the fact that it was
originally conceived as the first movement of a set of three. Hailstork
now recognises it as a standalone work, paying tribute, via Walt Whitman's
love-it-or-loathe-it poetry, to the "adventurous spirit of all people
setting out on the seas of life." Hailstork's score is delicately orchestrated
and aptly uplifting. It is fair to say that he is at his most patriotically
and cinematically American here, as is big-voiced baritone Kevin Deas.
Texts are included in the booklet, although a sing-along would probably
only appeal to some Americans.
The disc is surprisingly short - Hailstork was surely as chafed as any
would-be buyer that more of his music was not recorded here for posterity.
It is something of an exaggeration to call Hailstork, as one prominent
US review outlet does, "truly one of this country's most important [...]
composers". For a risk-free dip into late-20th century orchestral waters,
his music, like this recording, has many merits. Moreover, it is always
heartening to see the stupendous musical heritage of 'dead white Europeans'
embraced and advanced by someone who is 'none of the above'!
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