CHADWICK: Suite symphonique. Aphrodite. Elegy in Memory of Horatio Parker
Czech State Philharmonic, Brno/ José Serebrier, cond.
Reference Recordings RR-74 (F) (DDD) TT: 72:25 

NOTE:  This CD has now been reissued in a twin-pack.  See REVIEW.

This well-filled disc is Reference Recordings' second all-Chadwick orchestral tribute from Serebrier and the crack Philharmonic at Brno who play like major-leagers for him. The only duplications of Neeme Järvi's CD-and-a-half from Detroit (on Chandos) are the four Symphonic Sketches that Howard Hanson resurrected back in his Rochester years on Mercury, and two concert overtures -- Tam O'Shanter and Melpomene. Here, Aphrodite of 1912 is the cover piece, I daresay because its subject is uncovered in a very period painting. But the work of greater substance is Suite symphonique, composed a year later.

Chadwick (1854-1931) was an exact contemporary of Janácek, the pride of Brno, whose resident orchestra performs Chadwick's music on both RR CDs. Their performances, thanks to Serebrier, are markedly more idiomatic than the ubiquitous Järvi's, and better recorded, too. The composer was arguably America's foremost symphonist of the 19th century. His training at Leipzig and Munich produced not a Teutonic clone but a technically adept musician with his own national priorities and regional accent. He was the teacher of Horatio Parker, 10 years younger, who was the bane of Charles Ives' academic years (as Cherubini had been of Berlioz's). When Parker predeceased him in 1921, Chadwick wrote the 8-minute, gently eloquent Elegy that follows Aphroidite. The latter work begins, as if hypnotized, in mid-Tristan before it escapes into Chadwickland, but lacks the cohesion we hear in the four movements of Suite symphonique.

Admirably, Chadwick was never tainted by Richard Strauss, who had completed all of his popular tone-poems and operas through Der Rosenkavalier by 1911. The next wave of American composers was still waiting for World War I to begin and end, so they could study in France rather than Germany -- Hanson being the exception. He chose Italy.

Warmly recommended for those numbed by The Fifty Famous Pieces, as Virgil Thomson used to call them, except the number seems to have shrunk by 10 since he doffed his critic's hat in 1954.