Prokofiev started work on his Sixth Symphony in 1945 and, unlike the victorious mood of the Fifth (Naxos 8.573029) it reveals a darker response to war and its consequences. The work was condemned by the ‘Zhdanov decree’ but composer and critics regarded the symphony highly, the noble yet anguished threnody of its central Largo balanced by the painful violence of the outer movements. The work’s ending has been described as “one of the most shattering in the repertoire”. With themes both capricious and sensuous, theWaltz Suite recycles material from earlier scores to create a remarkably effective quasi-symphonic entity.
Awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2012, Kevin Puts now stands in the forefront of contemporary American composers. His powerfully conceived SymphonyNo. 2 is a musical illustration of the events of 9/11 and traces a movement from unsuspecting bliss and rhapsody through violent upheaval to a reflective epilogue that contains both uncertainty and hope. Possibly inspired by thoughts of the Mississippi, River’sRushemploys novel harmonies, while elegant transparency distinguishes the refined beauty of the Flute Concerto.
Listen to TRACK 2: Piano Concerto No. 7 in C major
Dublin-born prodigy John Field enjoyed a wide reputation and great popularity. He was renowned as a soloist for his delicacy of nuance and as a composer for his cultivation of that most poetic of forms, the nocturne. His Piano Concertoswere eagerly anticipated and the première of the Concerto No. 7 in Paris on Christmas Day 1832 was attended by both Chopin and Liszt. Ingeniously structured in two movements, its Rondo finale evokes the ballroom and Russia in a series of constant contrasts. The Irish Concerto is a reworking of the first movement of Field’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in A flat major. Piano Concertos No. 1–6 can be heard on 8.553770, 8.553771 and 8.574221.
William Mathias was one of the foremost British composers of the 20th century and one of the very few of his generation from Wales who established an international reputation. The lively Christmas sequences Ave Rex and Salvator Mundicontrast with the splendour and tenderness of the rarely-performed anthem An Admonition to Rulers. Also included are the joyful Wassail Carol, the popular organ solo Toccata Giocosa, and première recordings of All thy worksshall praise thee and The Lord’s Prayer—respectively the composer’s first and last choral works.