"Adriano tells us, in his detailed programme note, that the works of Strong were recommended to him by Ernest Ansermet whom he met in 1967. Later a friend added sparks and smoke to the kindling with a tape of Toscanini's broadcast of Die Nacht (21 October 1939). When a large cache of Strong's scores came into Adriano's possession in the early 1990s the seal was well and truly set.
Strong went to Leipzig in 1879 to study with Jadassohn and then fell in with Liszt and his Weimar circle. There he came under the thrall of programme music. [...] In 1930, eighteen years before his death he donated most of his scores to the Library of Congress despite his indignation about the rejection of his music by American orchestras. [...]
Die Nacht can best be thought of as a tone poem in four movements. The movements are: At Sunset, Peasant's Battle March, In an Old Forest and The Awakening of the Forest-Spirits. The music is at its most accomplished and communicative in the Sunset and Old Forest (I and III) episodes. Here Strong is ruminative and mysterious. He falls prey to raucous temptations in the Peasant's March (where the orchestra's polish noticeably lapses) and in The Awakening. The rough-edged gangling march is apt in its awkward edges. The Awakening has more successful music than not. Stylistically speaking, with this work, we are at the delta of influences from Berlioz (there is some extremely colourful and imaginative writing especially in the final episode), Liszt, Dukas, Mendelssohn (faerie music) and Wagner (Walkure in The Awakening). Raff is another reference point though Strong is much better at sustaining mystery and mood.
The Arthurian Legends have spawned a wide range of music. [...].
There is some delightfully Straussian or even Mahlerian succulent horn writing at 6.10 in the first of the three movements. [...] The slow tread of the adagio-andante is reminiscent of a rather primeval Mahler. The suggestion of disarming innocence amid the eldritch is strong. It is a small step from the Erben-based works of Dvorak and Fibich to this music. Dvorak and Fibich are, however, more concentrated and succinct. The music is much stronger in the finale where the tragic legacy of betrayal by Lancelot and by Guinevere breathes in music of the considerable mastery worthy at last of Strong's ambitious reach.
Though not so labelled, this is the second volume in Naxos's Strong Edition. It will encompass the complete orchestra works in the fullness of time. [...] I rather hope that someone can volunteer to me a list of Strong's works with dates and if possible dates and details of premieres.
These are pleasingly discursive late-romantic canvases which sit easily with the pictorial works of Raff, and Huber. "