Featured in Michael Fremer's Heavy Rotation in the October 2002 Issue of Stereophile!
Classic Records Quiex SV release!
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When Edgard Varèse arrived in New York in 1915, he paid an homage of sorts to his new home with his first published composition, Amériques, an abstract work that the composer deemed "symbolic of discoveries -- new worlds on earth, in the sky, or in the minds of men." Indeed, listening to the enormous orchestra thrash and convulse its way through it, you get a striking sense of a composer breaking away from his influences -- Stravinsky, Debussy, a touch of Schoenberg -- and leaping into a brave new world where music obeys no prior rules.
Perhaps because of this freedom, Varèse's work still has the power to astonish in a way that the music of his modernist contemporaries no longer does. Pierre Boulez has long placed Varèse among the 20th century's most important musical revolutionaries, and this recording of four of the composer's key works is a sonic marvel; the Chicago Symphony's brass and percussion, in particular, show their mettle in splendidly clangorous performances. In addition to Amériques, Boulez conducts Arcana, which despite its title is actually one of Varèse's most approachable pieces -- rising from strident marches and other propulsive figures to a quietly mysterious close. Ionisation, for 13 percussionists, is equal parts intricate rhythmic interplay and brute force. Déserts, which followed the other works by two decades, is performed here in its alternate version without the experimental electronic interludes the composer prepared. What remains, for winds and percussion, is starker and less aggressive than the earlier pieces, but there is no question of Varèse mellowing with age -- especially with Boulez's close attention to sonority and balance. It is as evocative and enigmatic as anything the maverick modernist ever composed. - Scott Paulin.
This Vanguard blockbuster recording was, for the first time ever, transferred from the original three track analog master tape. The sound is big and glorious and required almost no equalization which is quite rare for classical recordings. The Milhaud selection features a vocal quartet which is superbly intergrated sonically into the performance. This is a tour de force performance by Maurice Abavanel with his Utah Symphony Orchestra and a pinnacle of Vanguard Recordings. Small tube amps beware!
Musicians: The Utah Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maurice Abravanel; Blanche Christensen, soprano; Myrene Nixon, mezzo-soprano; Ronald Christensen, tenor; Pym Chartrand, bass.
Selections: Milhaud's L'homme et son desir, Honnegger's Pacific 231.