Strong: From a Notebook of Sketches; Suite No. 1; Suite No. 2; Suite No. 3; Ondine

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COMPOSERS: Strong
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: From a Notebook of Sketches; Suite No. 1; Suite No. 2; Suite No. 3; Ondine
PERFORMER: Moscow SO/Adriano
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559078
George Templeton Strong was born in 1856 into a well-off, music-loving New York family, but spent most of his life in Europe, studying and working in Germany, and later living by the shores of Lake Geneva for 55 years until his death in 1948. His 1883 symphonic poem Ondine, based on de la Motte Fouqué’s familiar tale of the water-nymph who falls in love with a mortal, was praised by its dedicatee Liszt as ‘excellent’. It’s certainly extremely clear and well-paced in its musical story-telling, and effectively orchestrated, but the thematic material comes from standard Romantic stock and there are few surprises.

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Strong’s Swiss-born champion Adriano performs the work in a revised version of 1939, alongside three colourful suites orchestrated in the Forties from piano duet pieces of half a century earlier, and apparently never before heard in full. The Moscow orchestra occasionally sounds a little rough and ready in these, but plays Ondine with full-blooded relish. Altogether, this is pleasant enough listening. But it’s already the third disc of Strong’s music in Naxos’s ‘American Classics’ series, which as yet includes nothing by Gilbert, Cowell, Ellington, Still, Crawford Seeger, Sessions, Crumb, Carter, Reich, Adams… A little more rigour about ‘classic’ status seems called for. Anthony Burton