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Harry van der Wal
Harry’s classical music corner, April 2017

This music will not be to everybody’s liking. Not that it is bad music, but it’s austerity is a constant element, and I feel that the technical accomplishment is by far greater as the emotional content.

The performances are superb. © 2017 Harry’s classical music corner Read complete review

MusicWeb International, February 2013

These recordings were originally released on Delos…Their reissue on Naxos, as part of both that label’s outstanding American Classics series and Seattle Symphony Collection can only be welcomed by aficionados of the great American symphony—both senses.

Mennin’s Third Symphony has appeared once before on Naxos, an archive recording from the Fifties, available for streaming or as a download only (9.80248)…Gerard Schwarz’s version is altogether zippier and renders Mennin’s music all the more visceral. Indeed, the primal energy of all three works, taken with their torsional directness and sophisticated lyricism, gives them an unassailable all-round attractiveness that would surely gratify audiences as much today as was the case in the composer’s heyday.

The Seattle Symphony’s performance here is very stylish and urbane, with Schwarz in his element in this kind of repertoire. In the Seventh Symphony…they strut and sashay through the frequently virtuosic score with deftness and panache. Sound quality is good too. © MusicWeb International Read complete review

Peter Dickinson
Gramophone, December 2012

The Specialist’s Guide To…The golden age of the American symphony: #3

Mennin’s…Third, with a fine slow movement, reveals that influences from across the pond included Sibelius and Vaughan Williams. This reissue…brings back one of a number of neglected American symphonists of the period—with Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony… © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Allen Gimbel
American Record Guide, November 2012

These are sensational pieces…The program opens with Moby Dick…The work is primarily an introduction and allegro, the introduction sober and richly harmonized, the allegro dominated by a jocular tune aptly described in the notes as a “sea shanty”. The music is clearly and densely contrapuntal, with loads of intense energy and effective background tonal progression. It’s exciting and virtuosic…

The Seventh Symphony…became one of the composer’s most respected works…Often beautiful and in the fast music breathtakingly virtuosic, it’s a grand showcase for a great orchestra…The Seattle players do a representative job, and if you are not familiar with the piece, or any of this music, this should be considered an essential addition to your library, especially at this price. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2012

Peter Mennin formed one of a group of American composer’s who came to prominence at the end of the Second World War. In a modern mode of tonality, they mirrored in the States the style of writing on which Walton and Bliss had embarked on the other side of the Atlantic, while the bleakness predated Shostakovich. That latter mood is very obvious in the slow central movement of the Third Symphony completed in 1947 while he was still a student following military service. He was never to become a prolific, much of his time spent teaching others, and today his reputation largely resides in this nine symphonies. The Third opens with suitable vigour overlaid with drama, a frame of mind that returns in the finale, its jagged rhythms also recalling Nordic music of the early 20th century. By the time we reach the Seventh symphony of 1964, and subtitled ‘Variation-Symphony’, Mennin had moved to a more austere style that verged on atonality, and which shows a very different composer that has come some way from his readily approachable era. In one continuous movement divided into several sections, the tone often becomes astringent and with powerful utterances, particularly from the strings. It is obviously an extremely difficult work to perform, and must have given a showcase for the Cleveland Orchestra who had commissioned the score. We go back to his younger years for Moby Dick a ‘Concertato for Orchestra’, the work having started out as a possible opera libretto, but subsequently becoming a short and colourful orchestral showpiece. The recordings go back to the mid 1990’s and were once available on the Delos label. This new release forms part of the Seattle Symphony’s retrospective on Naxos, the performances carrying the conviction and excellence that all seldom heard music requires. © 2012 David’s Review Corner, July 2012

Schwarz and his players…do a generally fine job with the very different symphonies of Peter Mennin (1923-1983)…Symphony No. 3 is highly rhythmic, rather bold and brassy, and quite energetic in its outer movements— but with a central Andante moderato that sounds like an extended song without words. The one-movement Symphony No. 7 bears its title of “Variation-Symphony” well, being essentially an extended set of contrasts among various sections of the orchestra as well as a lengthy group of variations on a theme. Moby Dick is a more emotional work, intended to evoke not so much the sea, the quest of Captain Ahab and the doom of the Pequod as the impact that Herman Melville’s book has on the reader. In all three pieces, Mennin shows himself to be an effective tone-painter and skilled craftsman, although the overall emotive ability of his music is somewhat limited—the orchestration is lush enough… © Read complete review

Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, July 2012

HOVHANESS, A.: Symphonies Nos. 1, ‘Exile Symphony’ and 50, ‘Mount St. Helen’ (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) 8.559717
MENNIN, P.: Moby Dick / Symphonies Nos. 3 and 7 (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) 8.559718

Among the glories of the Naxos label has been its preservation of extraordinary projects by other labels in other times. The Seattle Symphony, under Gerard Schwarz, was extraordinarily attentive to 20th century American composers whose stock might have fallen without them. Listen to this revision of his first symphony and his Symphony No. 50 “Mount St. Helens” (Opus 360 no less) and you’ll have a sense of what a huge loss that would have been. The Mount St. Helens Symphony comes complete with volcanic eruption for its third movement and would, doubtless, be a hit for any concert hall where it was essayed. The difficulties of Peter Mennin might be thought to be roughly analogous to Hovhaness’ but different. His kind of neo-classic vigor, like Schuman’s, was easy to lose as music joined the 21st century but the “Moby Dick” Concertato for Orchestra and Third and Seventh Symphonies are exemplary works from a period when American composers took themselves seriously as both artists and citizens. It’s fine work and holds up beautifully. © 2012 The Buffalo News Read complete review

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