WORKS: Moby Dick; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz
CATALOGUE NO: DE 3164
Peter Mennin (1923-83) was perhaps one of the lesser-known American symphonists, but he wrote nine works in the genre and was taken up by conductors like Mitropoulos, Reiner and Szell. There are comparisons to be made, not least with the later works of Vaughan Williams, and I can discern hints of Walton (in Moby Dick) and Holst (in Symphony No. 3). The motivic development and contrapuntal restlessness put me in mind of Robert Simpson. But Mennin is powerfully individual. This is music of real substance, rugged and closely argued, unfolding purposefully, adeptly orchestrated, and with the spaciousness so often encountered in American music. For the most part it’s solidly diatonic, and the rhythmic drive of the quicker movements is balanced by the extended slow melodies elsewhere.
Schwarz and the Seattle players convey all the power and drama, with a particularly fine account of the single-movement Seventh Symphony, its five sections skilfully balanced. Mennin’s cumulative counterpoint makes savage demands on players, conductor and recording engineer, but it’s surprisingly clear on this disc. Wadham Sutton