DON GILLIS (1912-1978): Symphony No. 1 "An American Symphony", Symphony No. 2 "A Symphony of Faith", Symphony No. 5 1/2 "A Symphony for Fun".
Catalogue Number: 12I001
Reference: TROY 888
Description: Although it could perhaps be identified as American, Gillis' first symphony, written as part of his graduation requirements and performed at North Texas State in 1941, does not sound like the folksy, super-American composer he was to become. While his enthusiastically naive program note at the time tried to establish the work as a "war symphony", it sounds more like a score to a medieval adventure film with knights and courtly pagentry. Gorgeous themes, captivating orchestration and classical symphonic form make this a must-have for any lover of symphonies - especially for people who don't think they like the mature Gillis. The second (1942), written while the war was really on for the U.S., has a first movement which channels Beethoven (good, since Gillis tells us this is a pastoral evocation of the great plains, etc.) in the first movement, finally arrives at a truly "American" feel with a few hymn-tune references in the slow movement and returns to a pan-European sounding optimistic finale. The coupling of the well-known, humorous 5 and a half only serves to heighten the difference between it and the other two symphonies on this release. Sinfonia Varsovia; Ian Hobson