Here are two orchestral suites of exotic inspiration by two composers of contrasting styles: Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) and Alexander Tcherepnin (b. 1899). Camille Saint-Saëns was a self-confessed eclectic with the keen mind and vast perspective of a scholar. He was dedicated to elegance, formal perfection, and clarity above all, which accounts for the unquestioned beauty of his music and also for a certain lack of passion. An eager, restless spirit (in the words of Romain Rolland), probably the most widely traveled musician of his age, he gave musical expression to the multi-colored images of far-away places in his own finely-wrought manner. ‘Suite Algerienne’ was written in 1879 after several trips to North Africa. Its four sharply contrasted evocations are often performed individually. The Prelude paints an oriental scene – it could be the city of Algiers at dawn – in languorous tints. The music builds gradually to an exciting climax and, after suggestive echoes of distant horn calls, slowly recedes into mysterious silence. Rhapsodie Mauresque opens with intriguing pizzicato measures and insistent thematic fragments; the mood suddenly changes and the music is inexorably propelled toward a strongly percussive, rousing conclusion. The clashing rhythms (2/4 against 3/4) add a special sense of excitement to this section. The calm Reverie du Soir, with its soaring melody in the strings and woodwinds, follows in effective contrast. The Suite closes with the zestful and vividly illustrative Marche Militaire Française, a proud affirmation of the French patriotic spirit. Thus, with the region so prominent in the world’s attention today, Saint-Saëns’s enduring tribute to Algiers may turn the mind of the listeners away from the troubled days of the present – toward the troubled days of the past. In contrast with the ever-present Gallicism of Saint-Saëns, which pervades even this exotic setting, Tcherepnin’s ‘Georgiana’ is a work of deeper-felt national authenticity. The Russian-born composer (now a United States resident) spent three years of his youth in the province of Georgia, studied the region’s folklore and liturgical music, and absorbed these elements into a storehouse of impressions he later used in several compositions. The vibrant, exuberant spirit of ‘Georgiana,’ abounding in native dance rhythms, is distinctly different from the classic reserve that characterizes Saint-Saëns’s pages. The five-movement Suite begins with the solemn Ceremonial, suggesting a court procession in medieval Georgia. In the succeeding episode of Veils And Daggers the mysterious oriental mood suddenly erupts into a percussive, energetic dance of wild fury. The emotional center of ‘Georgiana’ is the haunting Chota And Thamar inspired by the legendary romance between the Georgian poet Chota Rostaveli and Queen Thamar. Here the essential simplicity of the theme is enhanced by the composer’s rich harmonies and exceptional variety of orchestration. After another fast and furious dance episode (the Kartsuli), the Apotheosis casts a retrospective glance. Here the central Chota theme returns first in fragmentary form and, after vigorous brass proclamations, in its entirety in a caressing, nostalgic mood, expressing once more the poet’s devotion to his Queen Thamar. The Frankenland State Symphony Orchestra of Nürnberg is among Europe’s most versatile and prolifically recorded symphonic organizations. Its guest conductor on this occasion is George Barati, musical director of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Barati, a Naumburg prize-winning composer, has conducted symphony and opera in the principal cities of Europe and America. His ten-year tenure in Hawaii has been a major contribution to the new State’s cultural life.
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