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Peter Mennin: Syms 5 & 6 / Cello Cto

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 9, 2003
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 9, 2003)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: First Edition
  • ASIN: B0000C52FJ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,361 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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I am writing this review to express admiration for Peter Mennin in general and this CD in particular, but also to take issue on two specifics with another customer who gave it only 3 stars.

Mennin, one of the finest American composers, published seven symphonies (numbered 3 to 9), all filled with beautiful, individual music that has a strong emotional impact, plus two remarkable concertos, for cello and for piano. He was born in Erie, PA in 1923 and was president of the Juilliard School from 1961 until he died in 1983; the nine orchestral works span from 1946 to 1981. This CD presents his 5th Symphony (1950), 6th Symphony (1953) and Cello Concerto (1956), three transitional works in the middle of his career.

All his life, Mennin wrote tonal music featuring a “continuous unfolding of polyphonic lines through imitative counterpoint, adapted from Renaissance choral music, but with a vastly different effect: a noble lyricism in the slow movements and a constant sense of nervous energy and unswerving determination in the fast movements.” [Walter Simmons] His style can be called modern-traditionalist; “it is neither the Apollonian classical ideal nor the romantic’s confession of personal feeling, but the logical development of abstract ideas that seem to address profound existential issues from a non-verbal, depersonalized perspective.” [Simmons] Furthermore, over the years, the music gradually transitioned from the sound-world of “mainstream” American composition (e.g.
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Format: Audio CD
I've now heard all of Mennin's mature symphonies (he withdrew the first two he wrote, still a student at Oberlin and Eastman) and it confirms my opinion that, as good wines, the composer got better as he aged. I rewied elsewhere the CRI disc collating historical recordings of his 3rd from 1946 (Mitropoulos, recorded in 1953) and 7th from 1963 (Martinon, 1967), the Phoenix disc with his 4th from 1948 (along with the cantata Milena of the Argentinian Alberto Ginastera) and the New World CD with his 8th (1973) and 9th (1981), and I found the compositions from the 1960s onwards much better works (see Mennin: Symphony No.3/Piano Concerto/Symphony No.7, Symphony No.4/Milena, Mennin: Symphony No. 8, Symphony No. 9, Folk Overture). The basic paramaters of Mennin's compositional style remained - an irrepressible kinetic energy in the nervously busy and angrily dramatic toccata-like outer movements, the solemn or brooding slow movements rising to climaxes of intensity before receding back to their departure point- but these now came with a richness and depth of orchestration and a much more elaborate counterpoint that constantly caught the ear, and an approch to form that, especially in the 7th, "Variation"-Symphony, went a few steps beyond the basic A-B-A architecture.Read more ›
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