SymphonyNo. 5 in D
Stèlein memoriam d'Igor Stravinsky
Quatremouvements pour orchestre
AlexandreTansman was born in 1897 in the Polish city of Lódz into a family with widecultural interests. When he was eight, his parents took him to Tiflis, where hebecame familiar with theatre repertoire, and the following year he begancomposing. From 1902 until 1914 Tansman studied piano, harmony and compositionat Lódz Conservatory and this was succeeded by study of philosophy and law atWarsaw University, with parallel musical studies in counterpoint, form andcomposition with Piotr Rytel, whose pupils included Panufnik and Baird. In 1919he submitted two compositions under pseudonyms to the Polish National MusicCompetition, winning first prize with his Fantasy for violin and piano andsecond with a piano sonata. The award took him to Paris, where he supportedhimself at first as a worker, but, through friends, met Ravel, Golschmann andRoland-Manuel, through the last making the acquaintance of Milhaud andHonegger. Golschmann directed the first performance of Tansman's Intermezzosinfonico in 1920. Two years later Koussevitzky conducted Tansman's first PianoConcerto, with the composer as soloist. Other distinguished conductors followed,among them Stokowski, Toscanini and Mengelberg, who included works by Tansmanin concerts in Europe and in America. In 1927 Tansman embarked on his firstconcert tour of America with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Koussevitzky.
In 1932 and 1933 he undertook a concert tour of the Far East and in 1937 tookout French citizenship. During the war years he settled with his family inHollywood, where he established his friendship with Stravinsky, wrote filmmusic and gave concerts. In 1941 he won the Coolidge Medal of the Library ofCongress. Compositions in America included the contribution of Fall to acollaborative work based on episodes from the book of Genesis for whichSchoenberg wrote a Prologue, Milhaud Cain and Abel, Castelnuovo-Tedesco a Floodand Stravinsky a Babel. In 1946 Tansman returned to France, continuing hisannual concert tours throughout Europe. First performances of his works inthese years took place principally in Italy, with the Musique pour orchestreplayed at the Venice Biennale in 1949. In 1951 he conducted the French NationalRadio Orchestra in the first performance of his oratorio Isaïe, le prophète,and in 1955 his opera Le serment was staged in Brussels. Subsequent operasincluded Georges Dandin, based on the comedy by Molière, a Cello Concerto, anElegy in memory of Darius Milhaud and anumber of chamber works.
Tansmanwrote his Fifth Symphony in 1942 in Hollywood and dedicated it to the conductorPaul Kletzki, a former violinist in the Lódz Philharmonic Orchestra, who had bythen started to establish his international reputation as a conductor. Thefirst movement has a dramatic slow introduction, with elements that, as sooften, suggest the influence of Stravinsky, leading to an angular Allegro,opened by the strings, but soon involving the woodwind and the rest of theorchestra. The bass clarinet leads to the end of the movement. The expressiveslow movement starts with a clarinet melody, accompanied by divided violas,mounting to a climax of intensity as other instruments join in, before theflute brings the movement to a gentle conclusion, over an ostinatoaccompaniment. Overt American influence is apparent in the jazz elements of theScherzo, which makes use of both piano and xylophone. There is a slow firstsection to the final movement, introduced by solemn chords, with a contrapuntalstart to the ensuing Allegro. The symphony ends with a return to the openingmaterial, ending in a positive D major.
Stèlein memoriam d'Igor Stravinsky was written in 1972 as a tribute to a composerwith whom Tansman had enjoyed the closest friendship and of whose work he hadwritten a study, published in Paris in 1949. Stèle was commissioned by theMinistère des Affaires Culturelles and opens with a deeply felt Elegia, scoredfor an orchestra that includes piano, xylophone, celesta and vibraphone andrising to a pitch of some intensity before the music dies away. The secondmovement, Studio ritmico, a rhythmic study, is punctuated at first by gruffchords from brass and woodwind. There is a central contrapuntal section, openedby percussion, vibraphone and piccolo, before the return of the increasedrhythmic complexities of the opening. The concluding Lamento, that in textureand structure suggests yet again the work of Stravinsky, weaves its way throughmusic recalling the gamelan towards an ending through which bells sound a noteof hope.
TheQuatre movementspourorchestre was written in 1968 and dedicated to Tansman's friends Vladimir andLulu Jankélévitch. Woodwind, vibraphone and celesta notes pierce the nighttexture of string trills in an increasingly evocative movement, the tensiondecreasing as the music dies away. Muted strings begin the Perpetuum mobile,joined at first by flutes, piccolo and piano and then by the rest of theorchestra. There is a brief Interlude, with flutter-tongued interjections fromthe flutes and glissando strings, interrupted by a sudden chord from wind andpercussion. This leads directly to the third movement Elegia, introduced by thestrings and the fourth movement Ostinato, a toccata in which the pluckedstrings of cellos and double basses establish the repeated nine-note pattern ina movement to which there is a final mysterious evocative postlude. Here againTansman's evident eclecticism nevertheless suggests an original andrecognisably characteristic musical idiom that is entirely his own.
Czecho-SlovakState Philharmonic Orchestra (Košice)
TheEast Slovakian town of Košice boasts a long and distinguished musicaltradition, as part of a province that once provided Vienna with musicians. TheState Philharmonic Orchestra is of relatively recent origin and was establishedin 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductorshave included Stanislav Macura and Ladislav Slovák, the latter succeeded in1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra has toured widely in Easternand Western Europe and plays an important part in the Košice Musical Spring andthe Košice International Organ Festival.
ForMarco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rareworks by Granville Bantock and Joachim Raff. Writing on the last of these, onecritic praised the orchestra for its competence comparable to that of the majororchestras of Vienna and Prague. The orchestra has contributed many successfulvolumes to the complete compact disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos hasrecorded a varied repertoire.
MeirMinsky was born in Lódz, in Poland, in 1949, but was taken as a baby to Israel,when his parents emigrated. He studied music at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalemand subsequently with Franco Ferrara at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, laterwinning various prizes, in Rome, Florence and elsewhere. In 1979 he moved toNew York as Music Director of the Metropolitan Arts Orchestra, a position herelinquished in 1983, after critical acclaim in Berlin, where he directed thefirst performance there of the or