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GALLAGHER, J.: Orchestral Music - Diversions Overture / Berceuse / Sinfonietta / Symphony in 1 Movement, "Threnody" (London Symphony, Falletta)

Naxos 8.559652

   Fanfare, May 2017
   Classical Net, April 2012
   Fanfare, November 2011
   Audiophile Audition, July 2011
   KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM, June 2011
   The Classical Review, May 2011, May 2011
   Gapplegate Music Review, April 2011
   American Record Guide, March 2011, January 2011, January 2011
   Classical Candor, January 2011
   Fanfare, January 2011
   MusicWeb International, January 2011
   Fanfare, January 2011
   Fanfare, January 2011
   The Buffalo News, December 2010
   BBC Music Magazine, December 2010
   National Public Radio, November 2010
   Gramophone, November 2010
   88.7 KUHF News, November 2010, November 2010
   Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 2010
   Classical Lost and Found, October 2010
   Cinemusical, October 2010
   Minnesota Public Radio, October 2010
   David's Review Corner, October 2010

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David DeBoor Canfield
Fanfare, May 2017

…I cannot imagine any performance exceeding what I hear herein, so the purchaser of this CD need not fear that he is getting a performance…that will require upgrading at any point in the future. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

R. James Tobin
Classical Net, April 2012

This highly recommendable music by this very fine composer is certain to become better known, thanks to Naxos, Falletta and the LSO.

Gallagher’s “Threnody” symphony is a profoundly moving work. “Threnody” means lamentation, but much of this symphony is quiet and gentle. Dedicated to the memory of the composer’s mother, its beginning is hushed and meditative. High divided strings play very softly a simple melody, and as they proceed are joined by lower strings, and briefly by piano, harp, muted trumpet, solo violin, percussion, horn, and woodwind, including bass clarinet. In his notes, Gallagher admits to an expression of longing. Halfway through, both tempo and dynamics increase markedly, to express a more vigorous lamentation, even the normal stage of grief that includes anger. Heavier orchestral forces including three trombones, tuba and more horns and trumpets and heavier percussion accentuate this. String lines become intense. Quietness returns with a harp cadenza, three quarters of the way through, with beautiful woodwind solos following, interrupted by some staccato and percussive playing and the work ends with some thumping whoops reminiscent of Sacre du printemps.

The Sinfonietta for String Ochestra, now in five movements, three fast and two slow, was originally in only two—hence the double date given. The opening is excitingly Bartókian, but much of the work seems in the English string orchestra tradition and is pleasingly melodic. The composer notes that the fast first movement—with some scurrying notes—is in modified sonata form and makes use of the octatonic scale with alternating whole and half tones. (Stravinsky sometimes used an octatonic scale and those interested can find a chapter on this scale in Arthur Berger’s Reflections of an American Composer.) The second movement, “Intemezzo,” is called by Gallagher a “plaintive arietta.” High strings are featured and the melody is lovely. “Malamo,” a scherzo in the form of a lively, syncopated Argentinian dance, forms the middle movement and is the longest. “Pavane,” a very different kind of dance, is quiet, restrained, stately, flowing, and gentle. The final “Rondo concertante” features lively melody and rhythm. The whole work provides a very satisfying listening experience.

The gentle Berceuse grew out of a piano lullaby for friends, Gallagher tells us. The Orchestration is for pairs each of woodwinds, horns, trumpets, timpani and strings.

Diversions Overture, which opens the disc, begins with lyrical music, sounding richly with fine woodwind writing. After about four minutes it becomes rousing and brash for a time but the ending is quiet, lyrical and flowing.

All of this music is highly listenable and attention-holding. (If the term were not so hackneyed I would call it “accessible.”) The performances and recording quality on this disc are excellent and I have no hesitation in giving it a high recommendation. © 2012 Classical Net Read complete review

Steven E. Ritter
Fanfare, November 2011

I had never heard of Jack Gallagher, but his album of orchestral music conducted by the wonderfully productive JoAnn Falletta was simply too much to resist—where has this guy been hiding? And is there more to come? We can only hope so, as his art is on the highest level, and I cannot imagine anyone not liking it.

Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, July 2011

How the music of Jack Gallagher, currently Olive Williams Kettering Professor of Music at the College of Wooster in Ohio, escaped me, I have no idea. His teachers and master class instructors span the gamut of Elie Siegmeister, Robert Palmer, Burrill Phillips, Karel Husa, Thea Musgrave, Ned Rorem, Aaron Copland, George Crumb, and William Bolcom. It shouldn’t be hard to come up with some fresh ideas after associating with that bunch, and that proves the case here in this wonderfully varied program that displays to good effect the variety of music that Gallagher has created. None of it will pose any major problems for even the most conservative of listeners, but this is not to say the music is without substance. It just happens to be very accessible, tonal, melodic, and, well, very good.

The Diversions Overture is a piece taken primarily from the third and last movement of the composer’s Diversions written initially for symphonic band. It has that airy Coplandesque feeling to it with a hint of Harris nostalgia, but when we enter into the main theme we are in a purely rollicking and energetic statement that latches on and won’t let go. This is a terrific curtain raiser for any venue.

Berceuse is a small orchestra work of great lyricism—actually a lullaby—written for the daughter of some of the composer’s friends, originally on piano and later expanded for orchestra. Sinfonietta for String Orchestra is the longest work on this disc, and grew out of the Two Pieces for String Orchestra (1989–90), finally being added to and revised from 2006–2009. This is a five-movement work of great substance and beauty, hearkening back in some respects to the English pastoralists, and in some aspects hinting at parts of Bartók’s Divertimento, also for string orchestra.

The Symphony in One Movement: Threnody is from 1991 and revised in 2008. It is basically in two sections (slow and fast) and starts with desolating loneliness sparked by solitary strings, which resolves into a more resolute and determined dance-like sections that almost reminds one of a controlled mania in its mixed meter and percussion-laden episodes. The piece is colorfully scored and brilliantly balanced among all instrumental sections, ending with a thud after a series of Psycho-style knife slashes. This is truly a work of genius and would be worth the price of the disc by itself.

The LSO is in pretty fair form except in some of the more tricky and exposed passages in the Sinfonietta (probably due to limited rehearsal time) and in general are captured very well in the famous Abbey Road Studio One. JoAnn Falletta, easily one of my favorite conductors, guides her forces with ease and assurance, obviously loving every moment of this terrific music. If you buy only one disc of new music this year, I would certainly suggest this as the place to begin.

Larry Koran
KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM, June 2011

Jack Gallagher is a composer mostly of orchestral, chamber, choral, and piano works, which have been performed in Europe and the USA. He is a professor of music at an Ohio college. He has an M.A. and Ph.D. in composition from Cornell, and took master classes with Copland, Crumb and Bolcom. He has an award from the Charles Ives Center for American Music, among others. All tracks except the last one make for quite pleasant listening. Melodies are lovely, harmonies are rich, orchestration full and attractive, and rhythms varied and inventive.

Diversions Overture (1986)
1. (10:07). A slow intro, then solo winds give way to a faster, tutti orchestral passage. Solo strings → brass chorale, then full orchestra and coda. Pleasant throughout. Springtime dawn at top of Grand Canyon, then bustling horseback riders and tourists make a brassy appearance à la Copland, move into the distance, where they move about actively, and become nearly inaudible before the dawn theme returns to close the piece.

Berceuse (1977) [“Berceuse” = a lullaby or cradlesong]
2. (5:19). Quietly lyrical in gently rocking 6/8. Eloquent; evokes the open prairie with the occasional tall cloud wafting by.

Sinfonietta (1990/2007)
3. Intrada (5:18). Fast. Pizzicato string motif based on octatonic scale (alternating whole tones and semitones), then lyrical 2nd subject. ABA form. Pulsating, pleasant, but not sing-able. Bursts of passagework.
4. Intermezzo (4:11). Slow. A plaintive arietta in 6/8. Beautiful melody enriched by 9th and 11th harmonies. Ravel’s sounds are here extended.
5. Malambo (6:27). Fast. Named after an Argentine dance. Syncopated fanfare motif in open 5ths. Exuberant strings over attractive horn arpeggios in a dance that races the viewer through sunlit jungle.
6. Pavane (4:59). Slow. Stately court dance in duple meter. Waves of melodies constructed of pleasant skips of 3rds, 4ths and 5ths are artfully harmonized in sounds reminiscent of Debussy.
7. Rondo concertante (5:50). Fast. Dance-like theme, then yearning 2nd subject. Joyful, syncopated, energetic, attractive.

Symphony in One movement: Threnody (1991) [“threnody” = lament for the dead]
8. (21:36). The track’s first half is marked by slow, bitter melodies and bitter harmonies. In the second half, the orchestra becomes maniacally active, as if a dreamer is jerkily sleepwalking through a darkened, storm-ridden, rock-strewn landscape. A harp briefly calms the atmosphere, but the jerky, manic activity returns. No happiness here.

Colin Anderson
The Classical Review, May 2011

The opening of the Diversions Overture (1986) positions New Yorker Jack Gallagher as a composer of accessible music, lyrically inclined and filmic, and with a high quotient of color in the lucid orchestration. The Overture’s slowly suggestive opening material (with echoes of the music of Aaron Copland and William Schuman) returns at the close to envelop a faster section that reveals an irresistible rhythmic élan and not a little wit, exhilarating in its effect, and a noteworthy concert opener.

By contrast, Berceuse (1977), although eloquent, doesn’t quite fulfill its melodic promise. The five-movement, 27-minute Sinfonietta (1990/2007) is scored for strings and is full of incident. This is its first recording. The equally proportioned movements (each roughly five minutes in length) do not outstay their welcome and are communicative and likeable even if they don’t always establish a distinctive personality.

The fourth-movement ‘Pavane’ engages the most—perhaps because this listener hears an English quality to it and that peculiar sense of nostalgia so effectively mined by such as Ralph Vaughan Williams and, especially, Gerald Finzi; and, also, because Gallagher is fully able to develop his harmonious and wistful ideas—with the ‘Rondo concertante’ finale a lively dance with varied rhythms.

Symphony in One Movement: Threnody returns to the resources of a full orchestra—and orchestration is certainly one of Gallagher’s metiers—for a powerful and deeply felt (if not always individual and somewhat derivative) piece that lasts just over 20 minutes. Composed in 1991 and dedicated to Gallagher’s parents—his mother died unexpectedly during the its creation—much of the work’s opening half is characterized by forlorn expression, such sentiments seeming to come from an isolated and personal place. There are suggestions of the first movement of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony in the writing for lower strings.

Without much warning, the second half of the Symphony is fast and rebarbative, emotional outbursts heavily laced with brass and percussion, with strings angry and angular. A moment of respite is signaled by a harp cadenza. The mood becomes somewhat radiant, the pulse of the music now more positive, with a cadenza for clarinets that may be heard as birdsong-tinged. To these ears, this dark-to-light piece closes not only forcefully but also ambivalently, and with a reference (presumably deliberate, although the composer makes no such comment in his booklet note) to the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho—such screeching high strings, indelible to the film, really do sound as if they are copyrighted to Bernard Herrmann.

Under the committed and insightful conducting of JoAnn Falletta, the London Symphony Orchestra plays with considerable virtuosity and refinement. The recording is bright, immediate and clear, and delivers unconfined impact.

Stephen Eddins, May 2011


American composer Jack Gallagher, born in 1947, teaches at The College of Wooster in Ohio. Unlike many composers of his generation, the list of those with whom he studied and worked is not weighted toward serialists and modernists, but toward more lyrical composers like Elie Siegmeister, Karel Husa, Thea Musgrave, and Ned Rorem, and their aesthetic orientation is evident in his work. His orchestral pieces recorded here, written between 1977 and 2007, reflect a lyrical, melodic approach that sets him apart from the academic mainstream of many of the American composers who were trained in the 1960s and 1970s. His music is formally conventional, but it is always skillfully crafted and is notable for its colorful and nuanced orchestration, and it has an immediate appeal. The slow sections usually employ lovely, delicate sonorities, and harmonies reminiscent of Copland. Much of the music, in fact, suggests the strongly evocative, almost pictorially descriptive Americana of the mid-20th century. The five-movement Sinfonietta, written between 1990 and 2007, is a more abstract work. The third movement, titled “Malambo,” not surprisingly calls to mind the spirited Argentinean dances of Ginastera’s early period. JoAnn Falletta leads the London Symphony Orchestra in performances of energy and exceptional polish. Naxos provides a detailed but warmly ambient sonic environment ideally suited to the music.

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Music Review, April 2011

Present-day American composer Jack Gallagher may not be a name that is heard often in the music chatter that flows through the internet and, alas to a lesser extent these days, the printed medium. But it probably should be. The composer was kind enough to send me a copy of this Orchestral Music (Naxos 8.559652) and I am very glad he did.

The first thing that hit me was the lush beauty of the London Symphony Orchestra’s performance of his works under the direction of JoAnn Falletta, and the brilliant soundstaging achieved at London’s famed Abbey Road studios.

Then there is Jack Gallagher’s music. It is orchestrated excellently. It is quite lyrical. I’d say it reminds me a little of the symphonic Howard Hanson, in the sense that there is a melding of craft and passion that has an American robustness to it, and it has a traditional neo-romantic quality about it. But that would miss out on what strikes me a little more about these works—that is the very fertile melodic inventiveness that pervades every movement. So perhaps think of Roy Harris and his long melodic phrasing. Only, of course, this is Jack Gallagher’s music, which is something unto itself.

The CD covers works spanning a wide period, from the short 1977 “Berceuse,” the lively “Diversions Overture” from 1986, and on to the two major works represented, his “Sinfonietta” written in 1990/2007, and the “Symphony in One Movement: Threnody” from 1991. The latter two works are the most substantial and rewarding for this listener.

All I can tell you is that I’ve gotten a great deal of pleasure listening to the music on this Naxos disk. From the evidence of this recording Dr Gallagher is not one of the explorers of the frontiers of musical practice. He stays in a place where he is obviously quite comfortable and then creates music that has richly lyrical overtones.

If you like the idea of that I have little doubt that the music will give you the same pleasure it is giving me!

Ira Byelick
American Record Guide, March 2011

These pieces would appeal to a mass audience; they are accessible, conservative in structure, tonal in harmony, with clearly delineated ideas. They abound in aural landmarks for the occasional orchestral listener, both the way the composer uses the instruments and the way he organizes his compositions.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Robert R. Reilly, January 2011

Conductor Falletta, this time with the London Symphony Orchestra, brings us the startlingly gracious music of Jack Gallagher (b. 1947). The works on this new American Classics CD (Naxos 8.559652) fit exactly the description of American music at the head of this article. Do you want optimistic exuberance? Go to the Diversions Overture that begins the program. Poignancy? The liltingly lovely Berceuse. Music does not get much lovelier than this. Vivacity? The Sinfonietta for strings, which demonstrates how Americans can continue the great British tradition of such string works (think Britten). The Pavane movement in this piece goes as directly to the heart as does the Berceuse. It begins like one of Vaughan Williams’s great string works. The Symphony in One Movement: Threnody pretty much has it all, including some stabbing chords at the end that could have come out of Bernard Herrmann’s great score for Psycho. I highly recommend this CD for the shell-shocked. You will think you have been cheated that you have not heard it before., January 2011

Gallagher (born 1947) creates music that is warm, inventive, melodic and carefully structured. His Diversions Overture (1986) features an opening reminiscent of Mahler’s awakening of nature in his Symphony No. 1, followed by a brass-emphatic main section with especially attractive use of harp and percussion. Berceuse (1977) is a gently rocking piece with calm demeanor, pleasant winds and warm strings—a surprisingly sweet work, given the date of its composition. Gallagher’s five-movement Sinfonietta (1990, revised 2007) is an expansion of his Two Pieces for String Orchestra and is something of a mixed bag. The third movement, Malambo, has the most rhythmic and harmonic interest, while the fourth, Pavane, is a bit insipid and rhythmically flaccid—but the fifth, Rondo concertante, features some highly attractive pizzicato writing and in parts sounds a little like something by Britten. The largest-scale work here is Symphony in One Movement: Threnody, a 2008 revision of a piece that originally dates to 1991. It shows Gallagher’s mastery of more substantive forms, sounding at times a bit like the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra in its multi-instrumental virtuosity, featuring a number of very well-conceived scoring touches (a section playing harp against solo violin is especially effective), and turning very modernistic at the end. One of the most interesting things about Gallagher’s music is that, while it often sounds (at least briefly) like the works of others, it never seems imitative or reductive; nor does it use earlier works for sly or sarcastic purposes in the mode of Shostakovich. Everything sounds heartfelt and sincere—and is played that way by the London Symphony under JoAnn Falletta, a conductor who has shown herself especially adept in effectively communicating a great deal of modern music to audiences.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, January 2011

If you don’t immediately recognize the name of American composer Jack Gallagher (b. 1947), you probably aren’t alone. Professor Gallagher, who teaches music at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, cannot boast the world’s biggest resumé of compositions nor the biggest discography of recorded performances. What he can be proud of is the variety and creativity of his music, which this current Naxos disc well represents.

I mean, when so distinguished a conductor as JoAnn Falletta, so celebrated an orchestra as the London Symphony, and so big a record company as Naxos feel confident in a composer’s work, you know you’ve got to sit up and pay attention.

Without any previous experience with the composer or with performances of his work, it’s hard to know how good this new Naxos disc is. However, Ms Falletta seems to have taken a shine to the music, and the London Symphony play it with their customary attention and enthusiasm. I’ve read that the LSO are a quick study and have recorded more music than any other orchestra, so I can understand their handling the material as well as they do.

The program opens, appropriately, with an overture, a curtain-raiser, in this case the Diversions Overture (1986). Dr Gallagher named it fittingly, as it expresses a wide range of diverse temperaments. It opens gently with a Copland-like sunrise that sets the mood. Then it gets progressively more energetic as it moves along, perhaps by high noon getting downright rambunctious. The percussion instruments, especially, make an exciting partner in the proceedings before everything settles back into a comfortable repose.

The next item is Berceuse (1977), by definition a composition having a soothing, reflective character. It’s a short piece for small orchestra, a piece the composer describes as starting out as a lullaby for piano. Again, we hear Gallagher’s penchant for sweet, lyrical tones, a really lovely work reminiscent to me of several early twentieth-century English pastoral composers—Arnold Bax or Frank Bridge, for instance.

The Sinfonietta (completed in 2008) is the longest and most-ambitious piece on the disc, written in five movements and scored for string orchestra. It’s the middle sections I found most interesting: a hauntingly atmospheric Intermezzo; a spirited Malambo based on an Argentinean dance; followed by a calming, courtly Pavane. Then the music ends with a robustly melodic Rondo concertante.

The album concludes with Symphony in One Movement: Threnody (1991). A “threnody” is a song of grief, usually written for a funeral, so the music is both sorrowful and uplifting. Because the music is about twenty-one minutes long, Gallagher divides it into two segments, the first slow, yearning, and eerily melancholy; the second faster and more assertive, with percussive passages breaking out unexpectedly throughout both sections, though more flamboyantly in the closing moments. The forward thrust of the piece makes it quite enchanting and belies the mournful cast of its title.

These selections from Dr Gallagher’s body of work strike me as having great heart and emotional intensity, without resorting to gimmicky, abrasiveness, or sentimental condescension. They are at once modern yet old-fashioned in their harmonies, melodies, and rhythMs I have no doubt they would appeal to most listeners of almost any age, particularly when the conductor and orchestra play as ardently as they do here.

Naxos recorded the music at Abbey Road Studio One in 2009. As usual in this venue, we get recorded sound with a wide stereo spread, a modest but adequate sense of orchestral depth, and a more-than-ample dynamic range and impact. The audio engineers also handle frequency extremes well, with clear, extended highs and taut, solid bass. One forgoes ultimate midrange transparency for a pleasant ambient bloom, a fair compromise.

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, January 2011

Call him a neo-Classicist, neo-Romanticist, neo-Modernist, or whatever hyphenated “ist” you like. Jack Gallagher (b. 1947) is a composer who writes the kind of music that has immediate appeal to the ear and to the heart.

He is the Olive Williams Kettering Professor of Music at The College of Wooster (Ohio) where he teaches composition, orchestration, music theory, and trumpet. He holds doctoral and master’s degrees in composition from Cornell University and the B.A. degree in Music cum laude from Hofstra University, and his teachers include Elie Siegmeister, Robert Palmer and Burrill Phillips. Additionally, he has participated in seminars and/or master classes with a long list of eminent composers ranging from Karel Husa, Thea Musgrave, and Ned Rorem to Aaron Copland, George Crumb and William Bolcom. Gallagher’s compositions have been widely performed by a number of U.S. and international orchestras, and his works are included on 12 CDs published by several record labels, including Musical Heritage Society, Capstone, Vienna Modern Masters, Summit Records, Promuse, and ERM. For further information on Gallagher’s many awards and activities, you can visit his website at

Taking the program in the order it appears on the CD, we begin with The Diversions Overture (1986) which takes its name from a work Gallagher had written for symphonic band a year prior. A quiet, pensive, somewhat nostalgic opening section conjures a mood not unlike some of the vast open expanses music of Copland and William Schuman. But it’s not quite so austere, and when the violins enter at 1:10, a lyrical beauty suffuses the score. One is entranced by the atmospheric ambiance, but beginning around 3:55, the music begins to pick up steam with an accelerando leading to the work’s central section which begins with a bang at 4:22. But the allegro is not what the preceding material may have led us to expect. It’s in the spirit of a boisterous fanfare-like curtain-raiser that in style reminded me a bit of some of the works by Morton Gould. A deftly managed transition beginning at 8:45 gradually applies the brakes and takes us back to the slow, quiet opening strains to round the piece off and close it as it began.

A berceuse, according to dictionaries both musical and otherwise, define the term as a cradle song or a simple refrain usually in a rocking 6/8 meter and an alternating tonic/dominant harmony. Not every berceuse conforms to this exact formula, however. Brahms’s Lullaby, often cited as the most famous berceuse of all time, is in 3/4 meter and doesn’t rock so much as it rolls. Gallagher’s Berceuse also seems to stretch the definition a bit. The composer’s own booklet notes confirm the 6/8 meter, but more significant, I think, is that the piece is not all that lullaby-esque. It’s harmonically rich and lustrously orchestrated giving it a shimmering luminosity, and it concludes with the most comforting final cadence; but once or twice the music does rise to an impassioned climax that would probably startle you awake if you happened to be lulled into a dreamy stupor.

Of the four works on the disc, only the Sinfonietta for String Orchestra is designated a world premiere recording. It had its roots in two pieces for strings originally composed in 1989–90. These were combined and expanded into five movements in 2006–07 and then further revised and expanded in 2008. I suppose the Sinfonietta finds its antecedent in a work like Britten’s Simple Symphony, but in content and style it’s quite different. Its opening Intrada reminded me a bit of passages from Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste or from Martinů’s Double Concerto for 2 String Orchestras, Piano, and Timpani. There are similarities in some of the percussive motor rhythms and barbed dissonances. The Intermezzo movement is, in Gallagher’s words, “a plaintive arietta.” The third movement, titled “Malambo,” is a type of Argentinian dance in compound meter that is occasionally encountered in the works of Ginastera. Following this is a Pavane, exceptionally beautiful and moving in its own way, but not in the least reminiscent of Ravel’s famous Pavane for a Dead Princess. The Sinfonietta concludes with a Rondo concertante based on yet another dance-like motif, this time employing alternating meters.

This is both the most recent and second to most “modernistic” sounding work on the program. I put “modernistic” in quotes because the techniques Gallagher draws upon—melodic angularity, harmonic dissonance, and a combination of complex and irregular rhythms—are not core to this music but hung as clothing on a musical frame that is fundamentally tonal in its harmonic processes, formally traditional, as in the modified sonata-form Intrada, and neo-Romantic in its gestural language. The Symphony in One Movement: Threnody utilizes many of the same techniques as the Sinfonietta, but puts them to a rather different purpose. It was originally composed in 1991, revised in 2008, and dedicated to Gallagher’s father and to the loving memory of his mother who died while the work was in progress. I assume this was what motivated the “Threnody” appendage. Unlike the Sinfonietta, which exhibits a strong family resemblance to the dance suite genre, the Symphony is a serious work burdened by emotions of loneliness, longing, grief, anger, and eventually acceptance and an assertive resolve. Gallagher refers to “threatening episodes,” and I think I can identify at least one of them. Beginning at 12:08 there is a passage that creates quite a din and is uncannily reminiscent of the closing pages to Part I of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

No doubt there will be those in academic and critical circles who will say there is little of originality here and that this is soft-core modern music aimed at audiences that would cringe at the latest in avant-garde experiments. And while that may be true, I’m not aware that the beautiful in music is exclusive to the original, much less to the radically experimental. Gallagher writes beautiful music and he is very, very good at it. So engrossing did I find the works on this disc that its hour flew by as if only a minute. Not once did my attention wander. I was thoroughly captivated and more than once genuinely moved by this music. By now of course JoAnn Falletta is an old hand at this sort of thing, having recorded a great deal of music by American composers for Naxos’s “American Classics” series. Here is another one that goes in the win column. I can’t guarantee to give you your money back if you buy this CD on my recommendation and don’t like it, but I can’t imagine anyone who loves music not liking it. So yes, this gets my very strongest recommendation.

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, January 2011

I have been critical of several issues in the Naxos American Classics series. I have felt that, perhaps, a little more time and care in choosing the repertoire for the disks might have been taken. There have been so very many damp squibs. It’s that age old problem of this is good because it is modern and the new is to be revered without question (the Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome). If the music has tunes it’s better that the composer is long dead. Composers still with us of the older generation who fit into this tuneful, communicative, category are to be tolerated. But, let’s be honest, isn’t it exciting to find a contemporary composer who can write tunes, orchestrate well, communicate easily with his, or her, audience and doesn’t fill their music with unnecessary angst? Please welcome Jack Gallagher, a man who has been a name to me for some time, but whose music I have never encountered—until now. And I am very pleased to have met him for he is worthwhile in so very many ways.

Unlike so many contemporary composers Gallagher has something to say and he knows how to entertain. He doesn’t waste a note—marvellous—and when you see who his mentors are, you understand how he came to this position. He studied with Elie Siegmeister, Robert Palmer and Burrill Phillips, participated in seminars with Karel Husa, Thea Musgrave and Ned Rorem, and undertook master-classes with Aaron Copland, George Crumb and William Bolcom. All this study has been put to very good use.

Diversions Overture starts in a serious way—very lovely it is, in that well known, and typical, American outdoor style, with a fair wind blowing in your hair and light sunshine pouring down. You know that that’s not what’s going to be the main point of the piece, and, sure enough, after a fine build—up, there’s an outburst of real joyousness. Think of William Mathias’s Dance Overture with an American brashness and you’ve got it. Marvellous stuff.

The Berceuse is another piece of Americana, very beautiful and simplicity itself. The Sinfonietta for string orchestra, never loses sight of easy communication and like the Diversions Overture, it is full of entertaining music. The five movements are inventive and make a very pleasing divertissement, nothing serious here, just a delight in music-making.

Gallagher’s Symphony in One Movement: Threnody is made of sterner stuff. As you’d expect from the subtitle, this is a very serious affair, the first half slow and funereal, dark and brooding, then the music explodes into a fast section of power and tension. This is challenging stuff, and very impressive indeed. The ending is a riot of colour and energy.

This is one of the most interesting issues in the American Classics series. Powerful, well written music, which has a purpose and isn’t afraid to say what it has to say. The orchestration is of the most brilliant and, at times, extrovert, and it’s all laid out clearly for its audience. The performances are very good, although once or twice I sensed a slight discomfort in the high string writing. JoAnn Faletta is a fine conductor—why do we never see her on the concert platform in London, I wonder? She gets strong and committed performances from the London Symphony. The recorded sound is magnificent and the notes, by the composer himself, are very helpful in introducing the music. I am impressed, and so will you. At the modest price this is a real find!

Carson Cooman
Fanfare, January 2011

I have been a big fan of the music of American composer Jack Gallagher (b. 1947) for nearly fifteen years and have encountered all but one of these pieces piecemeal on previous multi-composer collections. An album entirely devoted to Gallagher’s music was long overdue. Jack Gallagher was educated at Cornell and Hofstra Universities where he was a student of Elie Siegmeister, Robert Palmer, and Burrill Phillips. He has been a composition faculty member at the College of Wooster in Ohio since 1977. Gallagher is also a trumpeter, and he is best-known for several solo and ensemble brass works that are frequently performed. Gallagher’s language is largely tonal and traditionalist in orientation; it is the memorable quality of his musical ideas that have kept me returning to his music over the years. He is also a first-rate orchestrator, and the terrific playing of the London Symphony Orchestra showcases this aspect better than ever.

The bulk of Gallagher’s orchestral output is included on this CD. The only significant exceptions are The Persistence of Memory, available on a Vienna Modern Masters release, and the 12-minute A Quiet Musicke, which remains unrecorded. Diversions Overture (1986) is a delightful work in which two contemplative outer sections surround a bustling inner section with a very John Williams-esque “big tune” that you’ll be whistling for days. It is one of the most satisfying American overtures I know, and the quiet coda provides an unexpectedly fresh ending to a piece in this ubiquitous “10 minute overture” genre. Berceuse (1976) is a beautiful, simple lullaby in a lilting triple meter.

The Sinfonietta for String Orchestra (1990/2007) is a five-movement work with the character of a divertimento. It calls to mind the “American Symphonette” suites of Morton Gould. Most appealing is the middle “Malambo” movement, an homage to Alberto Ginastera. Though it is a bit shorter than the Sinfonietta, the most “substantial” work on the album is the symphony (1991, rev. 2008). It is a deeply emotional piece composed in memory of Gallagher’s mother. The musical language is substantially more acerbic than the other works. Along with Anthony Iannaccone’s tremendous third symphony (1992), Gallagher’s is my favorite “unknown” symphony of the 1990s and is music that deserves to be widely played. The symphony begins with an extended slow section that builds momentum towards fast, driving music. The inexorable thrust of the piece compellingly depicts the murky emotional passage from lonely darkness into assertive conviction—ending with a forceful, angry coda.

Three of the pieces on this album have been recorded previously. Diversions Overture is on an ERM release with the Kiev Philharmonic and the symphony and Berceuse are on two Vienna Modern Masters albums with the Polish Radio Symphony and Koszalin Philharmonic. These new recordings by Falletta and the LSO (and overseen by veteran producer Michael Fine) are superior in every way. Warmly recommended and almost certainly a Want List item for me.

Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, January 2011

For those who do not know about Jack Gallagher and the genesis of this recording, I refer you to the feature/interview elsewhere in this issue. The four works offered here are an overview of most the American composer’s career so far, from the 1977 Berceuse, written when he was 30 years old, to the Sinfonietta, completed in 2007 and revised the next year.

There probably is no better introduction to Gallagher’s beautifully crafted, accessible music than Diversions Overture, the opener for this CD. The concert overture seems to evoke the open prairies of the old West, complete with sunrise, sunset, and the excitement of discovery. I mean no irony; it is very much in the style of the American school created by Aaron Copland and Gallagher’s first composition teacher, Elie Siegmeister. If there is any irony, it is that Copland and Siegmeister were city boys from New York, and Gallagher was, too, before he took his university job in Wooster, Ohio. It doesn’t matter. In 1986, when Gallagher wrote this, he showed himself a natural heir to the style that his predecessors created. There is poignancy, explosive energy, good-natured humor (love those harp interjections in the middle section), and a warm-hearted directness that is tremendously engaging. This is a feel-good music in the very best sense of the expression.

On the other hand, the earlier Berceuse is so beautiful it could make you cry. How many times does a critic get to say that when reviewing a piece by a living composer? And it works because there is no sense that the composer is trying to make that happen. As is true of all of Gallagher’s music, there is unaffected honesty, the sense of being allowed to look into the composer’s heart. This gentle little lullaby, based on a piano work written for the daughter of friends, is one of Gallagher’s most played and recorded works. I have not heard it better done.

Originally a set of two pieces for orchestra, and expanded in to a full five-movement suite in 2007, the Sinfonietta is occasionally reminiscent of chamber-orchestra works by British composers like Moeran. At other times Britten’s more anxious string works are brought to mind. This is a different side of Gallagher’s art, emotionally more contained—though no less vigorous—and sparer in sound. Throughout there are surprises: an unexpected interval, an unusually timed rhythmic pattern, or a chord that deliciously refuses to resolve. In the Intrada, he uses the octatonic (diminished) scale to create a feeling of uneasy anticipation. In the Intermezzo he frames the melancholy, slowly shifting movement with a concertante opening and closing that is like murmured conversation against the sound of the night. The lively, slightly unsettling central Argentinean Malambo serves as a scherzo, but the bustle never seems joke-like. The Pavane is reminiscent of the Berceuse of 30 years previous, though now the innocence is bittersweet, and the gentleness a touch reserved. The pizzicato opening of the concluding Rondo Concertante brings us back to English pastoral, and the folk dance. Throughout there is a quality of understatement that is deceptive, as greater familiarity with the work reveals a deep complexity that isn’t immediately apparent; very like getting to know the composer, and very moving.

So is Gallagher’s Symphony in One Movement, subtitled “Threnody.” Written, in part, in memory of his mother, who died unexpectedly during its composition, this is understandably the darkest of the works here. The opening section may well remind you of Shostakovich’s wrenching adagios, and echoes of Bernard Hermann will come later, but the way this lament explodes into sudden anger in the second part is clearly Gallagher’s usual kinetic energy, agonized and held too long in check. It subsides eventually, played out in sinister snatches of manic solo violin, and racing piano chromatics, and the roaring of the brass. An eerie harp cadenza provides a release, but no sense of consolation, and the work dissolves into a fractured madness of spent rage and poignant remembrances before collapsing into despair.

As I have said before, this is a most welcome release of some absolutely fantastic music. It is not cutting-edge, nor self-consciously emotive as some neoromantic music is. It is richly and directly communicative. Naxos is to be commended for offering an opportunity to hear these four major works by a composer who richly deserves to be better known. JoAnn Falletta clearly loves these pieces, and brings them vividly to life. The LSO—need I say this?—plays with great conviction and energy. Only an occasional unevenness of ensemble in the swirling figurations of the Sinfonietta, or a moment or two of tentativeness in the brass, hint at any lack of familiarity. The sound is lovely, fully capturing the bloom of that great Abbey Road Studio One. Urgently recommended.

Herman Trotter
The Buffalo News, December 2010

Jack Gallagher (b. 1947) may sound more like a Packers’ linebacker than a serious composer. But it turns out that this professor at Ohio’s College of Wooster is one of JoAnn Falletta’s best discoveries in her continual search for underrated American composers. His music is fresh, imaginative, colorful and deftly orchestrated, as immediately demonstrated by his 1986 “Diversions Overture.”

It is an absorbing journey from outdoorsy quietude to brash, joyful exuberance and back again. Gallagher’s music spontaneously exudes engaging lyricism and exciting rhythmic patterns, without any hint of being forced or calculated, whether in the gently beguiling 1976 “Berceuse” or the striking 1991 “Symphony in One Movement: Threnody,” whose profound emotional range is a response to his mother’s death during its composition.

Performances seem exemplary, and this CD can be unreservedly recommended.

Anthony Burton
BBC Music Magazine, December 2010

JACK GALLAGHER composes with assurance for orchestra but seems less personal and less original in his rather four-square quick music than when the tempo is slower: in the reflective opening and closing sections of his Diversions Overture, in his Berceuse with its surprisingly intense climaxes, in the Ravel-like ‘Intermezzo’ and ‘Pavane’ of his Sinfonietta for strings, and in much of his strongly conceived Symphony in one Movement, Threnody. The programme gets Rolls-Royce treatment from JoAnn Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra, well-recorded at Abbey Road.

Bob McQuiston
National Public Radio, November 2010

Over the past eight years, conductor JoAnn Falletta has given us some of the most interesting lesser-known symphonic repertoire available on the Naxos label. And she’s done it again with this new release of orchestral works by Ohio-based composer Jack Gallagher (b. 1947).

A student of Aaron Copland, Elie Siegmeister, William Bolcom and George Crumb, Gallagher is one of those rare contemporary composers who writes music that’s not only intellectually stimulating but immediately appealing.

His Diversions Overture, from 1986, begins in a relaxed Copland-like manner, but soon gathers momentum and erupts into a big tune worthy of an American Cinemascope Western. Brilliantly orchestrated and impeccably constructed, Diversions closes with a peaceful prairie sunset

The Berceuse (1977) is one of Gallagher’s most popular creations. It’s easy to understand why once you hear its lyrical subtlety and cradle-rocking simplicity. It borders on impressionism.

In 1990, Gallagher completed two pieces for string orchestra, adding three more in 2007 to come up with the five-part Sinfonietta, which receives its world premiere recording on this disc. With alternating fast and slow movements, you’ll catch whiffs of Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra in the energetic opening “Intrada.”

The delicate “Intermezzo” is diametrically opposed to the feral “Malambo,” which is based on an Argentinean dance of the type found in Alberto Ginastera’s Estancia ballet. Restraint again prevails in the wistful “Pavane,” and the work concludes with an antsy “Rondo.”

The CD ends with Symphony in One Movement: Threnody composed in 1991. After a mournful and impressionistic opening, the music slowly builds, eventually charging ahead in a series of percussively spiked passages.

It then dissolves into a lightning-streaked cadenza for the harp, followed by some chromatic thunderbolts from the entire orchestra. Near the end, a slithering clarinet cadenza leads to booming chords, punctuated by shrieks from the strings and brass in an obvious nod to Bernard Herrmann’s “shower scene” music in Psycho.

Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra make a strong case for Gallagher’s Technicolor scores. And the fact that they were recorded in the legendary Abbey Road Studios doesn’t hurt either.

The orchestral timbre is totally natural with silky strings, sonorous winds, and well-delineated percussion. The solo instrumental parts in the symphony are ideally highlighted and balanced against the rest of the orchestra, making the work all the more lustrous.

Laurence Vittes
Gramophone, November 2010

Jack Gallagher lands one of the great orchestras for a survey of his career

Fresh and exuberant, Jack Gallagher’s music speaks proudly of his country’s cultural values in positive, eloquent and healthy ways. Conducted here by JoAnn Falletta with grit and vigour, and played by one of London’s top orchestras, it must be a dream come true for the composer, who holds the Kettering chair at the enterprising College of Wooster, which owns the Ohio Light Opera.

Gallagher, also a Grammy-winning producer, writes his music which will thrill enthusiastic young musicians and listeners with its explosions of sound and colour, in the Diversions Overture which opens the programme. With lots of brass, harp and xylophone, allied to sweet folk tune interludes and big sweeping melodies the young Clark Kent would have found familiar, the piece is an inspiring American celebration. Berceuse, which follows, is a lush, lyrical work in a similar populist vein.

The 20-minute Threnody, dedicated to the composer’s parents and here receiving its first recording, is an unusually active but effective lament, its single movement expressing contrasts in sound and texture as if they were corresponding to deep-felt emotions. While the music’s considerable motor energy and occasionally hair-raising railing has growling Bartókian roots, the influences are being responded to rather than appropriated.

The LSO couldn’t sound finer; it’s as if the music had been specifically written to showcase their approach to making sound, layering the brass in 3D while keeping the strings in reserve whenever needed.

Gallagher’s precisely-detailed booklet-notes may read like they were written for a commissioning proposal, but for the technically minded the thought of such musical phenomena as “ever-broadening spirals of ambition” could seem like sheer poetry.

Chris Hathaway
88.7 KUHF News, November 2010

The music of Jack Gallagher, 63, currently Professor of Music at The College of Wooster in Ohio, is a breath of fresh air. It is eminently tonal but not unadventurous, exploits a variety of textures and moods and shows a secure technique of writing for a variety of ensembles. From the warmth and immediately appealing lyricisms of his Diversions Overture (taking as its basis music from an earlier band piece called Diversions) and the Berceuse (which also took its life from another piece, this one a piano miniature) to the controlled tension of Threnody, Gallagher is clearly a composer who has something to say and who can say it effectively. It is a kind of “new romanticism” which is thoroughly original; it may be compared to the George Rochberg of the 1977 Violin Concerto, after he had rejected serialism and began to concentrate on both recognizably tonal and freely atonal music. Gallagher’s music is not atonal, but in Threnody he is not afraid of dissonance as a means of heightened expressivity and drama. The sheer variety of orchestral textures, including an extended clarinet cadenza before the final tutti climax, is nothing short of amazing.

Gallagher’s Sinfonietta for strings is a marvel of a work. In some ways it is superficially reminiscent of Bartók. The soul of the work—for this reviewer—seemed to lie in its two scherzo-like movements, the third (Malambo) and the finale (Rondo concertante), although the work as a whole is completely integrated though each movement has its own distinctive sound world. Gallagher’s roots are clearly of the middle twentieth century—the time of his birth and of his coming of age. It is hoped that we can hear more from this composer in the future.

David Hurwitz, November 2010

On evidence here, Jack Gallagher (b. 1947) is a composer of considerable ability. He wrote the notes to this release, not necessarily a good idea, since they read like a job resume and have about as much personality as stale bread, but the music happily says otherwise. The two big works, the Sinfonietta for strings and the Symphony “Threnody”, have considerable substance. Among the five movements of the former work is an Argentine Malambo (think of the final dance of Ginastera’s ballet Estancia), and a very good one too. The symphony manages the difficult task in a modern work of being turbulent and emotionally affecting without ever sounding petulant or gratuitously miserable. It’s also very cogently structured in one movement, part of a long and distinguished lineage stretching back through Samuel Barber and Roy Harris to the Seventh Symphony of Sibelius.

Diversions Overture opens with some lovely modal harmonies in the woodwinds, and for a moment you might feel that you are listening to a lost work from the English pastoral school—not quite Vaughan Williams, but possibly E.J. Moeran or John Ireland. Gallagher’s individuality soon reasserts itself, however, in the music’s quick sections. The Berceuse is a slight but pretty little intermezzo.

As you may have guessed, this music is harmonically traditional and falls gratefully on the ear, but it never comes across as merely facile or clichéd. JoAnn Falletta and the London Symphony play it all with notable confidence and technical security, as we have every right to expect, and they’ve been well recorded at Abbey Road Studios. Gallagher is definitely worth getting to know.

Donald Rosenberg
Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 2010

The four works here show Jack Gallagher, professor of music at the College of Wooster, to be a composer of diverse coloristic gifts. Each piece inhabits its own sound world, from the vivacity and lyricism of “Diversions Overture” and poignancy of “Berceuse” to the varied moods of “Sinfonietta” and dark, swirling drama of the “Symphony in One Movement: Threnody.” The London Symphony Orchestra and conductor JoAnn Falletta are first-rate champions of Gallagher’s creations. Grade: A

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, October 2010

Over the past eight years, conductor JoAnn Falletta has given us some of the most interesting lesser-known symphonic repertoire available on Naxos…and she does it again with this release of orchestral selections by American Jack Gallagher (b. 1947). A student of Aaron Copland (1900–1990), Elie Siegmeister (1909–1991), William Bolcom (b. 1938) and George Crumb (b. 1929), Gallagher is one of those rare contemporary composers who write music that’s not only immediately appealing, but intellectually satisfying.

The program opens with his Diversions Overture of 1986. It begins in a relaxed Copland manner, soon gathering momentum as a big tune that could be out of a Cinemascope American Western bursts forth. Brilliantly orchestrated and of impeccable construction, it ends in a peaceful prairie sunset.

The Berceuse (1977) that follows is one of the composer’s most popular creations. Lyrically subtle and with a cradle-rocking simplicity bordering on the impressionistic, it’s easy to understand why.

In 1989–90 Gallagher wrote a couple of pieces for string orchestra, adding three more in 2006–07 to come up with the five-part Sinfonietta, which receives its world première recording here. The movements comprising the expanded work alternate between fast and slow, with the opening one being an energetic “Intrada” that at times smacks of the last movement from Bartok’s (1881–1945) Concerto for Orchestra (1942–43, revised 1945).

The delicate “Intermezzo” that follows has all the grace of the previous Berceuse, and is diametrically opposed to the “Malambo” that’s next. This feral number is based on the same Argentinean dance tune Alberto Ginastera (1916–1983) uses in his Estancia ballet (1941). But restraint once again prevails in the intricately wistful “Pavanne,” and the work concludes with a fetching antsy “Rondo” recalling the mood of the “Intrada.”

The disc is filled out with the Symphony in One Movement: Threnody of 1991. The mournful impressionistic opening would seem to be an expression of the composer’s grief over his mother’s death while he was writing the piece. But the music slowly gathers impetus and charges ahead in a series of percussively spiked, colorfully scored passages.

It then dissolves into an arresting lightning-streaked harp cadenza, which may bring to mind Ravel’s (1875–1937) Introduction and Allegro…(1905), only to regain momentum as the orchestra lets loose a series of chromatic thunderbolts. The music again briefly abates for another cadenza, this time featuring the clarinet, and somewhat reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov’s (1844–1908) Capriccio Espagnol…The piece ends with more thunderous ff chords punctuated by shrieks from the strings and brass, which recall Bernard Herrmann’s (1911–1975) score for Psycho (1960).

Conductor Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra make a strong case for Gallagher’s Technicolor scores. Those liking readily accessible symphonic music of late romantic persuasion will not be disappointed.

Done at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, the recordings are excellent and project a convincing soundstage with just the right amount of reverberation. Exceptional clarity characterizes the sound across the entire frequency spectrum without any high end glare. The orchestral timbre is totally natural with silky strings, sonorous winds, and well-delineated percussion. The solo instrumental parts in the symphony are ideally highlighted and balanced against the rest of the orchestra, making the work all the more lustrous. This is a demonstration grade disc.

Cinemusical, October 2010

Naxos continues to explore newer American orchestral music with this release featuring music by Ohio-based composer Jack Gallagher. Gallagher’s music has received a dozen recordings on smaller, hard-to-find labels that many will wish to seek out perhaps after hearing the orchestral works on this release. The music presented here features selections from 1977-1991 with a recent revision dating from 2007. No doubt having your music performed and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra was a thrill and fortunately conductor JoAnn Falletta is on the podium to provide her deft interpretations of this music. The CD is arranged like a miniature concert opening with an overture and concluding with the composer’s much lauded Symphony in One Movement – Threnody.

The opening Diversions Overture (1986) has its root in a work for symphonic band. The introductory section is a very Americana lyrical section recalling Copland but with a bit more chromaticism. A flute call has an almost Native-American quality. What is fascinating though is how the work builds slowly to its center where brass announce an exciting syncopated theme that could come from an Elmer Bernstein western score. All is brilliantly orchestrated and performed here. The work is in that genre of American overtures like Copland’s Outdoor Overture or Williams’ The Cowboys Overture. Overall it is an exciting work deserving a place on concert programs. This is followed by the short Berceuse (1977), a touchingly beautiful lullaby for orchestra that inhabits an accessible romantic musical realm. It is oft-heard on Viennese classical radio and one can hope soon will be a frequent work to be enjoyed here as well.

There are two large-scale pieces that make up the bulk of the CD. The first of these is a work that has seen a bit of revision, Sinfonietta. Originally it began in 1989-90 as two pieces for orchestra and then later was expanded with three more movements in 2006-2007. Gallagher further revised the work in 2008 after concert performances and it is this version which is recorded here. The string orchestra work allows Gallagher to explore different registers of this orchestral family to brilliiant results. The opening “Intrada” is an at times Bartokian flurry of strings featuring multiple stops, rapid passages, and the juxtaposition of lyric writing with pizzicato. The following “Intermezzo” is slow song-like lyrical work showcasing various soloists and the composer’s gift for melody. The third movement is a Ginastera-like “Malambo” with some exciting rhythmic play and two trios for contrast. The fast scherzo-like movement provides great contrast to the preceding material.   The dance references continue in a sttely “Pavane” and a final movement in Rondo form with a dance-like theme. The piece is a fine display of string writing and in this final (?) form greatly benefits from the upbeat third and fifth movements. Gallagher’s thematic material is always engaging and quite accessible with his formal structures easily deciphered by the listening audience. One does wonder though if maybe calling a “Dance Suite” would benefit its chances at further performances.

The final work included here is the 1991 Symphony in One Movement – Threnody. Here we are moving away from the lighter, more pops-like Americana of the earlier pieces and into one of the composer’s more introspective and emotionally deep pieces. The opening lyrical ideas seem to spiral upward only to be thwarted in their expectation toward consonance and cadences in expected places. Instead, the music winds about chromatically with brilliant little explosions of faster-paced music and intriguing solo work. This piece shows a further command of the orchestra in its restraint of musical ideas cast throughout the ensemble and featuring more percussion, mallets and piano appear in the texture. The work is more complex than the earlier pieces, but we have by now been drawn into Gallagher’s musical world enough that these more dissonant ideas come as fascinating new directions. The dark colors and chromatic writing are reminiscent of Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, but the sound tends toward a more contemporary American orchestral style unafraid of its more Romantic roots. It makes for a moving orchestral work with exciting faster sections that further explore the orchestra in this dramatic piece.

The London Symphony Orchestra is in top form here giving committed performances to works that appear to have mostly been performed by regional American orchestras. What a blessing then to have one of the world’s premiere ensemble provide such engaging performances captured in a perfect sound picture. This CD will be of great interest to fans of new American music and its film-like Romantic orchestration could find a whole new audience as well. Highly recommended.

Julie Amacher
Minnesota Public Radio, October 2010

St. Paul, Minn.—Sometimes the most surprising things come from the most unexpected places. Who could have predicted that one of the greatest rock bands of all time would come from Liverpool, England? Here’s another one for you. The composer responsible for the exciting orchestral music on this new release isn’t from Los Angeles or New York—he hails from a smaller city in Ohio. American conductor JoAnn Falletta unearthed four orchestral works by Jack Gallagher and recently recorded them with the London Symphony Orchestra.

JoAnn Falletta serves as music director for two American orchestras, the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Virginia Symphony. She also guest conducts various ensembles as she does on this new release. Her success is due in part to her crisp approach of performing, and recording works and composers that deserve more attention, like Jack Gallagher.

Jack Gallagher is a Music Professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio. He earned his composition degrees from Cornell University. Gallagher has taken part in seminars with composers like Ned Rorem, and he’s sat in on master classes with other American greats like Aaron Copland, George Crumb and William Bolcom. This new release opens with Gallagher’s “Diversions Overture,” composed in 1986 for the Wooster Symphony Orchestra, based at the small liberal arts college where Gallagher teaches. The reflective beginning of this piece is somewhat reminiscent of Copland’s “Quiet City,” with its slow, spacious tempo and its use of woodwinds and trumpets to symbolize roaming thoughts. The contrasting middle section features a thrilling brass chorale, which pauses for a few expressive harp glissandos. Gallagher dedicated this musical adventure to his son and daughter.

The piece I keep returning to is the “Berceuse.” This heartfelt piece blossomed from a lullaby Gallagher wrote for the daughter of friends. It’s a lyrical work for small orchestra. A gentle rocking 6/8 pattern sets the stage. The lush string section swells into a powerful crescendo, accented by pairs of flutes, clarinets, horns, trumpets and timpani. This piece seems to be filled with memories. You might find yourself drifting back to explore a few of your own memories as you listen.

This new release features the world premiere recording of Gallagher’s Sinfonietta for String Orchestra. This work started as “Two Pieces for String Orchestra,” and was expanded a year later into five movements. Multiple pizzicato stops with rapid passages based on alternating whole tones and semitones accentuate the opening “Intrada.” The “Malambo,” named for a lively Argentinean dance in compound meter divided into three parts is my personal favorite. It races along smoothly, and somewhat unpredictably, really grabbing my attention.

The “Symphony in One Movement: Threnody,” closes out this new release. It was commissioned by the Women’s Committee for the 75th Anniversary of the Wooster Symphony Orchestra in 1991. Jack Gallagher revised this work in 2008, dedicating it to his father, and to the loving memory of his mother who died unexpectedly as he was writing this piece. This Symphony begins quietly in divided violins conveying a sense of longing. That mood is disturbed several times as the tempo spirals into the faster, more animated second section.

Just as it may have seemed unexpected for a great dance sensation like Fred Astaire to call Omaha, Nebraska, home, it may be equally surprising to discover this new recording of orchestral music was also born in the Midwest. After listening to this new collection of orchestral works by American composer Jack Gallagher, you’ll be grateful for the on-going mission of conductor JoAnn Falletta whose musical quest is to spotlight well-deserving composers and their music.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2010

Thea Musgrave, Ned Rorem, Aaron Copland and George Crumb are listed among the mentors of the American-born composer, Jack Gallagher, but only Copland remains in his music. His immensely likeable music is the antithesis of the modernist group of composers, and comes in direct lineage of the tuneful and melodic music of yesteryear.The four works span much of his career, the earliest, Berceuse, dating from 1977, its gentle rocking backdrop giving orchestral soloists some highly attractive moments that carry a hint of American folk origins. It had grown from a piano score, and following its first release on disc, it was to became one of his best known early works. Nine years later came Diversions Overture, a score that takes me to the mountains of eastern North America, with its open-air feel and a latent power that at times surfaces. Mixed into its texture is that feel of folk music handed down from Copland almost as ghosts that flit by. There could be no greater contrast than the often hard-hitting and highly energised moods of the Symphony in one movement. Completed in 1991, there is a mix of anger and sadness that erupts in massive central climatic passages, the conclusion both abrupt and aggressive. The most recently completed is the Sinfonietta. That started life as two pieces for string orchestra back in 1990, but had reached its five movement format three years ago. It is mainly expressed in pastel shades, and only scored for strings, I am sure Gallagher must be delighted with the highly detailed playing of the London Symphony for JoAnn Falletta, the very many solo passages in such beautiful quality. Premiere league recording.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group