ALBUM TITLE: Tovey
WORKS: Symphony in D, Op. 32; The Bride of Dionysus – Prelude
PERFORMER: Malmö Opera Orchestra/George Vass
CATALOGUE NO: TOCC 0033
I was predisposed to enjoy Sir Donald Tovey’s Symphony. His Piano Concerto (1905) and Cello Concerto (1933) are superb examples of post-Brahmsian composition. The Symphony (1913) proves stylistically more advanced than either: Brahms is just one background presence in a developed idiom with nods to Bruckner, Strauss and Reger, the second movement a modern take on Beethoven’s symphonic scherzos. Scored for a Mahler-sized orchestra, it’s full of instrumental invention and of fascinating and/or glorious moments. Yet despite glimpses of a noble architecture the shapes of the movements and their ultimate direction are curiously hard to grasp. The near-continuous polyphonic textural elaboration, the often heavy (rather than thick) scoring seem at odds with the materials. If I say the work it most reminds me of is Reger’s Sinfonietta, this is not meant as unalloyed praise. No such qualms about the Prelude to Tovey’s Ariadne opera The Bride of Dionysus, a beautifully seamless fusion of Brahms and Parsifal.
The Malmö Orchestra does wonders with the technically taxing Symphony, due doubtless to appropriately firm direction from George Vass. Calum MacDonald