This is the third volume in Australian-born conductor Reuben Blundell’s series devoted to premiere recordings of works by American (or American based) composers of the late 19th and early 20th-centuries. The first two discs featured the ten-piece Gowanus Arts Ensemble, but here Blundell conducts his Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra. All written immediately prior to or during World War I, the works are steeped in the European style – though Carl Busch and Charles Wakefield Cadman draw on Native American ideas. The disc opens with David Stanley Smith’s Prince Hal, An Overture based on Shakespeare’s character, while Busch’s Minnehaha’s Vision and The Song of Chibiabos find their genesis in Longfellow’s epic The Song of Hiawatha. Cadman’s colourful Thunderbird Suite – written for a play based on Native American mythology – is the most compelling work, taking Blackfoot Indian melodies as the basis for its three central movements.

Other highlights include Gena Branscombe’s A Memory, a lush work for strings and harp (originally a salon piece for violin) while Edward Macdowell’s At an Old Trysting Place and Cecil Burleigh’s At Sunset are pleasant but tend towards the saccharine. The disc’s blazing finale is Swiss-born Ludwig Bonvin’s bold and brassy Festzug (Festival Procession).

With some fine performances by the orchestra, this is well worth a listen if you’re looking for something off the beaten track.

Composer: MacDowell, Busch
Composition: Prince Hal, An OvertureMinnehaha’s VisionThe Song of ChibiabosThe Song of Hiawatha
Performer: Lansdowne SO/Reuben Blundell
Catalogue Number:
New Focus FCR166C

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