Friday, June 16, 2017

O'Brien, Charles. (1882-1968) Complete Orchestral Works, volume II. First Recordings.

New acquisition.
Bought in May 2017.
First listen: 16-6-2017.
Label: Toccata Classics.
Recording dates: December 2014 and February 2015.
Recording venue: Liepāja Latvian Society House, Liepāja, Latvia.
Recording engineer: Normunds Slava.
Running time: 65:24.
Relevance to me: Worthwhile.

Works performed:
To Spring, Concert Overture, opus 4. (1906)
The Minstrel's Curse, Concert Overture, opus 7. (1905)
Mazurka and Berceuse. (1898)
Scottish Scenes opus 17. (1915, orchestrated 1929)

Performed by:
Liepāja SO, Paul Mann.

After the first instalment of this series it tasted distinctly for more, so off I go with the second volume. It is every bit as good as the first volume. The works on this disc are recorded for the first time, and some of the works were forgotten after a first public performance. The only work that was very popular in O'Brien's time was "To Spring" a overture with distinct leanings towards Robert Schumann, be it in a very original way. {There is already so much promise in this youthful work, with a bright tonality, flashes of spontaneity and sudden flourishes of fantasy.} The rhythmical dynamism is exhilarating, crisp and incisive. A very likable work.
The Minstrel's Curse, has a problematic history, the score ( not a fair copy) being found in such a disarray, full of errors of pitch and imprecisions of detail, and barely a hint in terms of dynamics, accents or other details of articulations. Paul Mann found it to be a minefield to negotiate a new edition. I have to say that he did a great job in constructing a very worthwhile score. It may not be what O'Brien would have opted for in the end, but it is certainly a very original composition. For it's bearings one has to look at Franz Liszt, and Peter Tchaikovsky. In a sense it's a dark work, but highly approachable. Mann writes that the music outstays it's welcome, but I rather disagree with him on this point. It ended too soon for me! {The wild abundance and florid melodies} do a great job in entertaining me. The closing is full of joy. 
The Mazurka and Berceuse are works of his early youth, and are probably orchestrated by  a fellow Watsonian, called Cecil Coles, who was killed in WW I. The orchestration turned out problematic so Mann did re-structure both works. Nice music of not much consequence.
The Scottish Scenes were originally scored for piano solo, and orchestrated them in 1929. I think them to be the best offering on this disc. Its full of Scottish tunes and perfectly scored for a maximum of effect. He is less formal and freer in creating gorgeous melodies and free flowing dynamism. {It depicts a country full of ruggedly beautiful sometimes inhospitable landscapes, as if it is roughly hewn from the mountainsides.}
The performance is very good as is the recording, although the first two works suffer a bit from too much reverb. Detail however is excellent with a good front to back image.




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