The 1879 symphony is very solid fare within a general romantic framework. It shows the influences of Brahms and Mendelssohn but then also has a thematic pristineness not overtly derivative.
We are also treated to two shorter bonus works: the Prelude to "Oedipus Tyrannus" (1880-81) and "Poseidon and Amphitrite, An Ocean Fantasy" from around 1888.
Ms. Falletta once again shows an excellent feel for this kind of music and the Ulster Orchestra responds accordingly. If Paine does not sound like the whirlwind father of American classical music, he set the stage, raised the expectations high for the next generation, Ives, Ruggles, Copland, Gershwin and the others who followed and opened the curtain to a truly local set of styles, rooted in both nationalism and modernism in unique ways.
But nonetheless Paine's music is not unattractive. The symphony was a major work of its time in the USA. The "Poseidon" Fantasy strays further afield for some music certainly of its time but worthwhile to hear now.
Falletta gives us performances worthy of Paine's music. It is a very pleasant experience hearing it all. If it sets the stage for things to come it also has charm that makes the experience of it rewarding and of course historically illuminating. A good thing for students of the rise of modernism and an American school, surely.
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