Sunday, 7 March 2021

Edgard Varèse, Robert Craft, Columbia Symphony Orchestra ‎– The Varèse Album (1972)

Style: Musique Concrète, Post-Modern
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Columbia Masterworks, Wounded Bird Records

Tracklist:
1.1.   Ionisation
1.2.   Density 21.5
1.3.   Intégrales
1.4.   Octandre
1.5.   Hyperprism
1.6.   Poème Électronique
2.1.   Déserts
         Offrandes For Soprano And Chamber Orchestra
2.2.   Chanson De Là-Haut (Song From On High)
2.3.   La Croix Du Sud (The Southern Cross)
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2.4.   Arcana

Credits:
Composed By – Edgard Varèse
Conductor – Robert Craft
Orchestra – Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Producer – John McClure, Thomas Frost

In the early '60s, Robert Craft's Columbia recordings of Varèse's works (re-released on this AAD disc) were important contributions to the catalog and hailed for giving this music greater exposure. However, in comparison to later recordings of higher quality, these performances are uneven, rushed, and severe. Part of this is due to Craft's urgent conducting, yet the music also suffers from clumsy playing, unbalanced dynamics, audible edits, and dry acoustics. Ionisation is hurried and lacks depth, critical failings in a piece that requires clarity and separation of its parts. Density 21.5 is adequately performed, but marred by tape hiss and low reverberations from the studio's background. Intégrales is unduly harsh and occasional slips in the brass make it sound inadequately rehearsed. Octandre fares better, though it has an unpleasant wooden quality. The rapidly paced Hyperprisme goes by without apparent mishap, though it has some slight intonation problems. Varèse's Poème électronique is untouched by these misfortunes, since it is a direct transfer of the composer's finished tape. This disc is perhaps of historical interest only, but worthwhile for having Poème électronique, which is seldom included on other CDs. The later Boulez discs on Sony are preferred for their sensitive interpretations and spacious sonorities.
Blair Sanderson / AllMusic