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Henry Cotter Nixon: Complete Orchestral Music, Vol. 1 / Ana Torok, Violin; Kodaly Philharmonic Orchestra, Paul Mann

Album Summary

>Nixon, Henry Cotter : Jacta est Alea, concert overture no 3
>Nixon, Henry Cotter : Romance for violin & orchestra
>Nixon, Henry Cotter : Palamon and Arcite, symphonic poem for orchestra
Performer Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This new series from Toccata Classics presents the music of a composer-conductor from Victorian England who has entirely disappeared from music history. Henry Cotter Nixon (1842-1907) turns out to have been one of the most accomplished English composers of his generation, with a style that takes in elements of Mendelssohn, Schumann, Verdi and Brahms. This series of three albums presents all his surviving orchestral music in its first-ever recordings. Nixon labeled his five-movement Palamon and Arcite a symphonic poem, and indeed, it is one of the first by a British composer, but in fact, it is more of a programmatic symphony, of the sort then being written by composers such as Goldmark and Raff.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Pásti Synagogue, Debrecen, Hungary (2016-06-22&2016-06-26_2016-).



Reviews

Rescued from Obscurity
Count on Toccata Classics to bring another obscure composer to light. And count on that composer's music being worthy of our attention.

Henry Cotter Nixon spent most of his career at the fringes of the British musical scene and was considered to be a provincial composer. Most of his compositions are melodies (simple songs), but there are some orchestral works, including what may be the earliest British symphonic poem, Palamon and Arcite.

This album is the first installment in a traversal of Nixon's orchestral compositions. His catalog includes three concert overtures, three works for violin and orchestra, and an assortment of single-movement works for orchestra, so I anticipate another two or three installments in this series.

The Concert Overture No.3, Jacta est Alea was written sometime in the 1880s. Stylistically, I heard the influence of Brahms and Mendelssohn -- not uncommon for British composers of the late Victorian period. And yet, there's something else there that made this overture more than just a pale imitation of its influences. Nixon had a finely developed sense of the dramatic. The overture doesn't neatly fall into a traditional sonata-allegro form, but it works. And that's what counts.

To me, the 1889 Romance for Violin and Orchestra sounded a little too much of its time, especially with its sweetly delicate melody. Solo violinist Ana Török brought out all the emotion written into the music without letting it veer too far into late Victorian sentimentality -- a performance I truly admire.

So what of Palamon and Arcite, perhaps Britain's first symphonic poem? This 1882 five-part composition is the strongest work of the three, and definitely worth the price of admission. Nixon's 47-minute piece is a beautifully composed drama that is both imaginative and inventive. The melodies are finely drawn, without a hint of Victoriana. Nixon seems inspired by Beethoven, creating musical gestures of real emotional power. His use of brass throughout the work is especially effective.

Quite frankly, I don't really care if Palamon and Arcite is the first British symphonic poem or not. That may prompt one to listen once out of curiosity, but I think this work deserves more. Palamon and Arcite is a substantial work that stands up under repeated listening, especially with the strong, committed performance Paul Mann and the Kodály Philharmonic Orchestra deliver.

Palamon and Arcite is more than just a historical curiosity. This is music that can -- and should -- be enjoyed on its own terms.

Submitted on 03/06/17 by RGraves321 
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Works Details

>Nixon, Henry Cotter : Jacta est Alea, concert overture no 3
  • Conductor: Paul Mann
  • Ensemble: Kodaly Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Notes: Pásti Synagogue, Debrecen, Hungary (2016-06-22&2016-06-26_2016-)
  • Running Time: 13 min. 34 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: after 1880

>Nixon, Henry Cotter : Romance for violin & orchestra
  • Performer: Ana Torok (Violin)
  • Conductor: Paul Mann
  • Notes: Pásti Synagogue, Debrecen, Hungary (2016-06-22&2016-06-26_2016-)
  • Running Time: 10 min. 4 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: circa 1889

>Nixon, Henry Cotter : Palamon and Arcite, symphonic poem for orchestra
  • Conductor: Paul Mann
  • Notes: Pásti Synagogue, Debrecen, Hungary (2016-06-22&2016-06-26_2016-)
  • Running Time: 47 min. 14 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1882