From the New World
Dvořák: Concert Overture ‘Carneval’ (trans. Edwin Henry Lemare); Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’ (trans. Zsigmond Szathmary); Copland: Passacaglia for Piano (trans. John Fesperman); Barber: Adagio for Strings (trans. William Strickland)
Hansjörg Albrecht (organ)
Oehms OC475 75:49 mins
Of the organ transcriptions here, one is almost authentic: Samuel Barber’s famous Adagio exists in many versions, several by the composer himself, and William Strickland’s arrangement for organ was indeed published with Barber’s encouragement and blessing. This ‘saddest music ever written’ makes its impact in any medium, and the organ is especially well suited. But the spooky austerity of Copland’s Passacaglia, an early piano work from his days as a Boulanger student in Paris, is equally effective (transcribed by John Fesperman) on this cleverly conceived recording by the organist Hansjörg Albrecht.
Copland and Barber were visitors to Europe. For composers going the other way, to the New World, Hamburg was a major gateway, and the city’s Hauptkirche St Michaelis, the venue of this recording, a landmark they could hardly have missed. No matter that Dvořák embarked for America from the rival port of Bremen – his music is welcome here, even if Edwin Lemare’s transcription of the Carnival Overture belongs more to the Town Hall tradition. It makes a brilliant if occasionally muddy impression, whereas Zsigmond Szathmáry’s arrangement of Dvořák’s New World Symphony is completely successful. Albrecht draws wondrous sounds here, and even in the generous acoustic commands the symphonic argument with considerable clarity and musicianship.