The Ohio-based composer Jack Gallagher writes music that is intellectually stimulating, and immediately appealing.
The Ohio-based composer Jack Gallagher writes music that is intellectually stimulating, and immediately appealing. Naxos records
Over the past eight years, conductor JoAnn Falletta has given us some of the most interesting lesser-known symphonic repertoire available on the Naxos label. And she's done it again with this new release of orchestral works by Ohio-based composer Jack Gallagher (b. 1947).
A student of Aaron Copland, Elie Siegmeister, William Bolcom and George Crumb, Gallagher is one of those rare contemporary composers who writes music that's not only intellectually stimulating but immediately appealing.
His Diversions Overture, from 1986, begins in a relaxed Copland-like manner, but soon gathers momentum and erupts into a big tune worthy of an American Cinemascope Western. Brilliantly orchestrated and impeccably constructed, Diversions closes with a peaceful prairie sunset.
The Berceuse (1977) is one of Gallagher's most popular creations. It's easy to understand why once you hear its lyrical subtlety and cradle-rocking simplicity. It borders on impressionism.
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In 1990, Gallagher completed two pieces for string orchestra, adding three more in 2007 to come up with the five-part Sinfonietta, which receives its world premiere recording on this disc. With alternating fast and slow movements, you’ll catch whiffs of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra in the energetic opening "Intrada."
The delicate "Intermezzo" is diametrically opposed to the feral "Malambo," which is based on an Argentinean dance of the type found in Alberto Ginastera’s Estancia ballet. Restraint again prevails in the wistful "Pavane," and the work concludes with an antsy "Rondo."
The CD ends with Symphony in One Movement: Threnody composed in 1991. After a mournful and impressionistic opening, the music slowly builds, eventually charging ahead in a series of percussively spiked passages.
It then dissolves into a lightning-streaked cadenza for the harp, followed by some chromatic thunderbolts from the entire orchestra. Near the end, a slithering clarinet cadenza leads to booming chords, punctuated by shrieks from the strings and brass in an obvious nod to Bernard Herrmann's "shower scene" music in Psycho.
Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra make a strong case for Gallagher's Technicolor scores. And the fact that they were recorded in the legendary Abbey Road Studios doesn't hurt either.
The orchestral timbre is totally natural with silky strings, sonorous winds, and well-delineated percussion. The solo instrumental parts in the symphony are ideally highlighted and balanced against the rest of the orchestra, making the work all the more lustrous.
Bob McQuiston revels in under-the-radar repertoire at his web site Classical Lost and Found.