Monday, March 30, 2015

Rhapsody! – Dorati & The Detroit Symphony

   In the history of romantic music the rhapsody is interesting example of form based on free invention and one more connection between popular and artistic music. It was rooted mainly in virtuoso phantasia. Improvisational attitude in romantic period was common part of musical techniques. Most improvisational type of composition was phantasy and there were lots of various forms of phantasies. Probably most popular among them was rhapsody. Free flowing form of rhapsody characterizes often changing, emotionally differential character of the music. It was composed mainly as instrumental work, although the name came from ancient Greek ῥαψῳδία which means epic song. Thus stylistic and thematic base for romantic rhapsody was always a folk song. Early rhapsodies were composed mainly in phantasy style, later it was resembled more song form. As it was so much popular in romantic culture, dozens of composers have written rhapsodies. Most famous rhapsodies start from 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies by Franz Liszt, and were often mimicked by other composers.
   The cycle of Liszt’s rhapsodies, a virtuoso solo piano pieces is rarely performed as complete program for its technical difficulties. In his rhapsodies Liszt uses Hungarian folk tunes, mainly heard from Hungarian Roma bands, with elements of Roma improvisational style, characteristic rhythmic and harmonic idioms of csardas and verbunkos. Some more popular rhapsodies are played often, especially Rhapsody No. 2 for many listeners became a synonymous for rhapsody at all. Three decades later composer arranged them for orchestra. Rhapsodies were composed by Johannes Brahms (Two Rhapsodies Op. 79), Claude Debussy (Première rhapsodie for clarinet and piano and Rhapsody for alto saxophone and orchestra), Bela Bartok (Rhapsody No. 1 and Rhapsody No. 2 for violin and piano), Sergei Rachmaninoff (Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43), George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue), Ralph Vaughan Williams (Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 for orchestra) and many others. 

Antal Dorati &The Detroit Symphony – Rhapsody! (1979)

   In April 1978 Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Antal Dorati recorded four rhapsodies of various composers. Antal Dorati was great conductor as orchestra leader, as performing and recording artist. His discography is the great collection of consecutive albums with various orchestras. In years he was working with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, he recorded with this ensemble as well. After albums with symphonic music by Peter Tchaikovsky and Bela Bartok he recorded album Rhapsody! – a choice of four rhapsodic pieces for orchestra. Three of them were connected to Central European and one to West European folkloristic patterns, all showing how different the cultural context of rhapsody can be. The first is Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 op. 11 by George Enescu, most famous composer of Romania. Then one can find orchestral version of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt - almost an obvious choice. Second side program is Slavonic Rhapsody Op. 45 No. 3 by Czech composer Antonin Dvořak and Rhapsodie Espagnole by Maurice Ravel.
   The Rhapsody! album was published in 1979 under the label of London Records Inc. Recording sessions took place a year before, in April 1978 at United Artists’ Auditorium in Detroit. Designed in Spanish-Gothic style this hall for more than two thousands viewers was one of most beautiful theatres of USA. When in 1976 furniture was sold out, the main hall was used for symphonic recording sessions as its acoustics proved to be ideal. In years 1978 to 1983 Detroit Symphony Orchestra have placed all recording sessions in this place. The sound of orchestra is deep and clear, with short but steady response and rich color. Orchestral sound and rhythmic intensity gave these compositions great outfit. Especially Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole founded on colorful orchestration provided for the band lots of chances to build visionary and deeply emotional performances. For Detroit Symphony Orchestra playing symphonic rhapsodies in spirited interpretations of Antal Dorati adequate appraisal is four stars.

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