About this Recording
8.223379 - TANSMAN: Symphony No. 5 / Four Movements

Alexandre Tansman (1897 -1986) Symphony No

Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986)

Symphony No. 5 in D

Stèle in memoriam d'Igor Stravinsky

Quatre mouvements pour orchestre


Alexandre Tansman was born in 1897 in the Polish city of Lódz into a family with wide cultural interests. When he was eight, his parents took him to Tiflis, where he became familiar with theatre repertoire, and the following year he began composing. From 1902 until 1914 Tansman studied piano, harmony and composition at Lódz Conservatory and this was succeeded by study of philosophy and law at Warsaw University, with parallel musical studies in counterpoint, form and composition with Piotr Rytel, whose pupils included Panufnik and Baird. In 1919 he submitted two compositions under pseudonyms to the Polish National Music Competition, winning first prize with his Fantasy for violin and piano and second with a piano sonata. The award took him to Paris, where he supported himself at first as a worker, but, through friends, met Ravel, Golschmann and Roland-Manuel, through the last making the acquaintance of Milhaud and Honegger. Golschmann directed the first performance of Tansman's Intermezzo sinfonico in 1920. Two years later Koussevitzky conducted Tansman's first Piano Concerto, with the composer as soloist. Other distinguished conductors followed, among them Stokowski, Toscanini and Mengelberg, who included works by Tansman in concerts in Europe and in America. In 1927 Tansman embarked on his first concert tour of America with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Koussevitzky. In 1932 and 1933 he undertook a concert tour of the Far East and in 1937 took out French citizenship. During the war years he settled with his family in Hollywood, where he established his friendship with Stravinsky, wrote film music and gave concerts. In 1941 he won the Coolidge Medal of the Library of Congress. Compositions in America included the contribution of Fall to a collaborative work based on episodes from the book of Genesis for which Schoenberg wrote a Prologue, Milhaud Cain and Abel, Castelnuovo-Tedesco a Flood and Stravinsky a Babel. In 1946 Tansman returned to France, continuing his annual concert tours throughout Europe. First performances of his works in these years took place principally in Italy, with the Musique pour orchestre played at the Venice Biennale in 1949. In 1951 he conducted the French National Radio Orchestra in the first performance of his oratorio Isaïe, le prophète, and in 1955 his opera Le serment was staged in Brussels. Subsequent operas included Georges Dandin, based on the comedy by Molière, a Cello Concerto, an Elegy in memory of Darius Milhaud and anumber of chamber works.


Tansman wrote his Fifth Symphony in 1942 in Hollywood and dedicated it to the conductor Paul Kletzki, a former violinist in the Lódz Philharmonic Orchestra, who had by then started to establish his international reputation as a conductor. The first movement has a dramatic slow introduction, with elements that, as so often, suggest the influence of Stravinsky, leading to an angular Allegro, opened by the strings, but soon involving the woodwind and the rest of the orchestra. The bass clarinet leads to the end of the movement. The expressive slow movement starts with a clarinet melody, accompanied by divided violas, mounting to a climax of intensity as other instruments join in, before the flute brings the movement to a gentle conclusion, over an ostinato accompaniment. Overt American influence is apparent in the jazz elements of the Scherzo, which makes use of both piano and xylophone. There is a slow first section to the final movement, introduced by solemn chords, with a contrapuntal start to the ensuing Allegro. The symphony ends with a return to the opening material, ending in a positive D major.


Stèle in memoriam d'Igor Stravinsky was written in 1972 as a tribute to a composer with whom Tansman had enjoyed the closest friendship and of whose work he had written a study, published in Paris in 1949. Stèle was commissioned by the Ministère des Affaires Culturelles and opens with a deeply felt Elegia, scored for an orchestra that includes piano, xylophone, celesta and vibraphone and rising to a pitch of some intensity before the music dies away. The second movement, Studio ritmico, a rhythmic study, is punctuated at first by gruff chords from brass and woodwind. There is a central contrapuntal section, opened by percussion, vibraphone and piccolo, before the return of the increased rhythmic complexities of the opening. The concluding Lamento, that in texture and structure suggests yet again the work of Stravinsky, weaves its way through music recalling the gamelan towards an ending through which bells sound a note of hope.


The Quatre movements pour orchestre was written in 1968 and dedicated to Tansman's friends Vladimir and Lulu Jankélévitch. Woodwind, vibraphone and celesta notes pierce the night texture of string trills in an increasingly evocative movement, the tension decreasing as the music dies away. Muted strings begin the Perpetuum mobile, joined at first by flutes, piccolo and piano and then by the rest of the orchestra. There is a brief Interlude, with flutter-tongued interjections from the flutes and glissando strings, interrupted by a sudden chord from wind and percussion. This leads directly to the third movement Elegia, introduced by the strings and the fourth movement Ostinato, a toccata in which the plucked strings of cellos and double basses establish the repeated nine-note pattern in a movement to which there is a final mysterious evocative postlude. Here again Tansman's evident eclecticism nevertheless suggests an original and recognisably characteristic musical idiom that is entirely his own.


Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra (Košice)


The East Slovakian town of Košice boasts a long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that once provided Vienna with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of relatively recent origin and was established in 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductors have included Stanislav Macura and Ladislav Slovák, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra has toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and plays an important part in the Košice Musical Spring and the Košice International Organ Festival.


For Marco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantock and Joachim Raff. Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the orchestra for its competence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and Prague. The orchestra has contributed many successful volumes to the complete compact disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.


Meir Minsky


Meir Minsky was born in Lódz, in Poland, in 1949, but was taken as a baby to Israel, when his parents emigrated. He studied music at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem and subsequently with Franco Ferrara at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, later winning various prizes, in Rome, Florence and elsewhere. In 1979 he moved to New York as Music Director of the Metropolitan Arts Orchestra, a position he relinquished in 1983, after critical acclaim in Berlin, where he directed the first performance there of the original (1873) version of Bruckner's Symphony No. 3. Meir Minsky has conducted various distinguished orchestras in the United States and throughout Europe, from Sweden to Italy, enjoying particular success in Basle and in Belgium, where he has now settled. His earlier recordings for Marco Polo include arelease of music by Joseph Joachim.

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