Strong: Le roi Arthur; Die Nacht

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WORKS: Le roi Arthur; Die Nacht
PERFORMER: Moscow SO/Adriano
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559048
Until recently the name of George Templeton Strong was familiar only as that of a mid-19th-century New York diarist quoted several times in Nicolas Slonimsky’s wonderful Lexicon of Musical Invective, grumbling at the modernistic excesses of Liszt, Wagner, Berlioz and even Verdi. But that was Strong senior. His similarly named son became a professional oboist and viola-player, travelled to Europe where he joined the circle around Liszt (his father must have turned in his grave), and eventually settled in Switzerland, composing, painting watercolours, and writing articles railing in his turn at the modernistic excesses of Stravinsky. These two works by Strong junior, written in 1913 and 1916 respectively and both given their first performances by Ernest Ansermet, are a cycle of four short tone poems on nocturnal subjects, and a 40-minute symphonic poem inspired by Arthurian legends. They are more than competently written, in a late-Romantic idiom influenced by Liszt, Wagner and Strauss, but of no great originality or memorability. And although the Moscow players take happily to the style and to Adriano’s committed direction (he also wrote the booklet notes), the results are hampered by a recording which has a wide dynamic range but lacks depth and attack. Anthony Burton