Reuben Blundell is an Australian-born conductor, whose mother played French horn in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. As a violinist, Blundell gained a place in the New World Symphony in Florida (under Tilson Thomas). He is now Music Director of several ensembles in New York and Philadelphia. One of these is the Gowns Arts Ensemble, a string orchestra, comprising ten musicians on this recording.
The programme consists of a dozen short pieces for strings by American or American-based composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was a time when Americans wrote in the European style, even if indigenous themes were used, as in the Omaha Indian Love Song and Chippewa Lullaby from Four North American Legends by Carl Busch (1914).
It is interesting to hear music by Horatio Parker, who was the composition teacher of Charles Ives – arguably the first true American original – as well as Roger Sessions and Quincy Porter. Parker’s Scherzo for Strings is a brisk minor-key waltz, reminiscent of the work of one of his own teachers, Dvorˇák. Other composers include Arthur Foote (Air and Gavotte), Frederick Converse (Serenade), and Paul Miersch, a German cellist who played in both the New York Symphony and Metropolitan Opera orchestras, and composed concertos for violin and cello.
This rare repertoire is lovingly performed, and should appeal to anyone who enjoys Suk’s Serenade for Strings or Elgar’s light music.