Converse

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Converse
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: The Mystic Trumpeter; Flivver Ten Million; Endymion’s Narrative
PERFORMER: Buffalo PO/JoAnn Falletta
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559116
Even lovers of American music will probably know no more than the name of the Bostonian Frederick Shepherd Converse – perhaps coupled with the title of his Flivver Ten Million, written in 1927 as the ten millionth Ford car rolled off the production line. It proves to be a cheerful piece of whimsy, complete with snatches of popular songs and honking car-horn; though the composer’s heart seems more in the mistily Impressionistic opening, ‘Dawn in Detroit’, and in the romantic interlude depicting ‘May Night by the Roadside’.

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Two earlier works were clearly inspired by the symphonic poems of Richard Strauss, which Converse must have heard while studying in Munich in the 1890s. The Mystic Trumpeter of 1904 is a slightly tame response to the wild exaltation of Walt Whitman’s poem, with one main theme too obviously recalling a well-known Chopin nocturne. But Endymion’s Narrative of 1901 is a full-blooded response to Keats which puts some distinctive musical ideas to powerful use.

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It would be good to hear the Boston Symphony, say, give this the full treatment. JoAnn Falletta’s Buffalo Philharmonic is not quite in the same league, and hits a few passages of dicey intonation, but still reveals Converse as an accomplished and enjoyable tone poet. Anthony Burton