American Classics - Beach: Gaelic Symphony, Piano Concerto

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If you're having only one Amy Beach CD (and you should have at least one), let this be your choice. It's a mystery why the Piano Concerto still awaits the attention it surely deserves, for it's a terrific piece, full of good tunes, flashy keyboard writing, and colorful orchestration. It's also very well constructed, with the long (17-plus minutes) first movement effectively balanced by the three ensuing ones. The "perpetuum mobile" scherzo is delightful; the Largo, with its quasi-Wagnerian opening, is surprisingly expressive for all its brevity; and the finale has irresistible verve. The only previous recording of note was an unsatisfactory version on Vox, which this newcomer blows away. Alan Feinberg certainly has the chops for the piece, and tosses off the trickier moments with uninhibited abandon. However, for some inexplicable reason he's given a very wiry, brittle sounding instrument (excellently balanced, though) with a real "twang" in its middle register (happily the top of the keyboard sounds much better). That strange caveat aside, this is now the version of choice.

The "Gaelic" Symphony comes off equally well. As always with this orchestra, the strings are especially rich-toned and a joy to hear. In the final analysis, there's not much difference between this performance and Järvi's on Chandos, save for the fact that conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn takes a little more time over the slow movement and finale, which is all to the good. Again, we can only admire Beach's command of the orchestra, her free and easy use of the brass, and the way she keeps the music moving along smartly. This may not be a "great" work in the manner of Dvorák's "New World" Symphony, which inspired it, but it's certainly a very enjoyable one, and like the Piano Concerto it deserves to be heard more often. All in all, a very highly recommendable disc, finely recorded.
--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8559139

  • UPC: 636943913925

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Amy Marcy Beach

  • Conductor: Kenneth Schermerhorn

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Nashville Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Alan Feinberg