FREDERICK CONVERSE (1871-1940): Song of the Sea, Festival of Pan, Op. 9, American Sketches.
Catalogue Number: 01N002
Label: Dutton Epoch
Reference: CDLX 7278
Description: This major new release doubles the orchestral music available on CD by Converse. The earliest work is the 1899 Festival of Pan, an 18-minute symphonic poem which, along with Endymion's Narrative (recorded by Naxos), made up a pair of pieces inspired by Keats' poem "Endymion". This is stylistically still in the late German Romantic field of his youth (he studied in Munich with Rheinberger as well as with Paine and Chadwick in Boston). Song of the Sea (1923), called "tone poem after Whitman" by Converse, is a 13-minute work whose sea-scapes are indebted to French Impressionism. The major work is the symphony-sized (in four movements, complete with scherzo, just like a symphony) Sketches of 1929. Converse used a couple of tunes from Carl Sandburg's recently published "The American Song Bag": "The Levee Moan" in the slow movement The Father of Waters, a vision of the inexorable Mississippi and the tune in the brief scherzo Chicken Reel (which will be immediately recognizable). The big first movement, Manhattan, captures both the chaos and noise of the city as well as its dehumanizing potential in its dissonant power and noise at the very beginning; rag-time rhythms appear later, as well as a Ravelian phantom waltz. The finale, Bright Angel Trail, portrays the Grand Canyon and the legendary birth of the Hopi Indians; an "Indian melody" is unsourced in the notes which, while adequate, should have told us a lot more and demonstate the only downside to having a specialist on Bax and his contemporaries writing notes for what was, by 1929, quite quintessentially American music. BBC Concert Orchestra; Keith Lockhart.