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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Deems Taylor, Three Century Suite, The Lost Music of Deems Taylor, Volume II

Who was Deems Taylor? He first gained fame as a composer, but was well known as a critic and the radio voice of the New York Philharmonic beginning in the 1930s. He was the first American to be commissioned by the Metropolitan opera for his work The King's Henchman, which along with his second opera Peter Ibbetson  enjoyed some success there.

His music has fallen so far out of favor that he is virtually unknown today. Until now. Navona is revisiting some of his music in the series The Lost Music of Deems Taylor,  which notches a Volume 2 with the EP Three Century Suite (Navona 6066).

The work at hand is very tuneful, lighthearted, but as full as a Victorian overstuffed couch, almost sounding like it was written by an American Edward Elgar. The five short movements have a somewhat rustic charm far from the modernism of an Ives or even a Copland.

But indeed this is well written fare, even if it may not blow our 2016 socks off. It is played nicely by the Moravian Philharmonic under Petr Vronsky. Will we see a major Deems Taylor revival? Based on this, probably not. Yet the music stays in the mind and perhaps characterizes something of mainstream US currents we have long left behind. It is nice, if perhaps not especially profound.

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