Kurka: Symphony No. 2; Serenade for Small Orchestra; Music for Orchestra, Op. 11; Julius Caesar: Symphonic Epilogue

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Kurka
LABELS: Cedille
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Serenade for Small Orchestra; Music for Orchestra, Op. 11; Julius Caesar: Symphonic Epilogue
PERFORMER: Grant Park Orchestra/Carlos Kalmar
CATALOGUE NO: CDR 90000 077
Robert Kurka was born in Illinois, the son of Czech immigrants, in 1921, studied at Columbia University in New York and died of leukaemia in 1957, aged only 35. His major work was an opera, The Good Soldier Schweik (reviewed October 2002). This orchestral programme reveals a composer of essentially tonal, neo-classical orientation, capable of strongly shaped forms, as in the single-movement Music for Orchestra of 1949 and the more conventional Second Symphony of 1953. His American background is most obvious in his persistent loose-limbed syncopation, and in a tendency towards over-inflated rhetoric – as in the bombastic conclusion of the ‘symphonic epilogue’ Julius Caesar of 1955. Along with this rhetorical strain goes a sometimes wearying emphasis on the heavy brass and timpani, chiefly at the expense of the woodwind – which makes the more transparently scored Serenade of 1954 the most immediately attractive piece on the disc.Under its principal conductor Carlos Kalmar, the Grant Park Orchestra of Chicago gives tidy, clearly committed performances; but, whether because of relatively small orchestral numbers or a distant recording, the sound is lacking in impact. The disc is certainly of interest, though, and prompts some curiosity about the rest of the surprisingly large output of Kurka’s short life. Anthony Burton

Advertisement