October 2008

Perry, Schuman, Thomson - American Music for Cello and Orchestra
Yehuda Hanani, cello; RTÉ National Symphony (Ireland); William Eddins, conductor
Naxos 8.559344
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by Rad Bennett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Naxos has provided a great service to American music with its American Classics series. With an ever-expanding number of titles, this innovative company has managed to pay homage to familiar works by US composers, while offering unjustly neglected compositions a new chance at life. The project utilizes first-rate performers and the latest techniques in recorded sound.

William Perry’s Jamestown Concerto was written in 2007 for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, VA, in 1607. It is programmatic, very tuneful, and adroitly scored, sounding more than a little bit like movie music. That is not meant as a slam, just an observation. William Schuman’s A Song of Orpheus was written for the famous cellist Leonard Rose, and this is the work's first recording since Rose taped it back in the early 1960s. The Naxos producers have had the brilliant idea to preface it with an eloquent reading of Shakespeare’s "Orpheus with his lute" by the distinguished actor Jane Alexander. Virgil Thomson’s Concerto was premiered in 1950 by Paul Olefsky. It is Thomson at his melodic best, the second movement based on a hymn, one of the composer’s favorite devices.

All three works are lyrical, and soloist Yehuda Hanani catches the singing quality of the beautiful musical phrases offered in each piece. The orchestra sounds much improved from previous recordings I have heard by it, and the recorded sound is rich, warm, and full without missing any detail.