It must be tough to be a "marginal" composer, and it is even tougher to be an advocate for one. Certainly in his time George Chadwick was not viewed as "marginal" by his peers -- despite his lack of a high school diploma, he was once director of the New England Conservatory of Music, and was once lauded widely as the great American composer of his era, notwithstanding the abilities and renown of his colleague Edward MacDowell. Nevertheless, Chadwick's reputation has suffered much since his death in 1931. Although David Ciucevich's optimistic liner notes trumpet "the post World War II resurgence of interest in the roots of American music has re-established Chadwick's importance," those to whom he should most matter -- academics and historians -- remain little convinced of Chadwick's primacy. With George Whitefield Chadwick: Symphony No. 2; Symphonic Sketches, Naxos American Classics have pressed conductor Theodore Kuchar and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine into the service of lifting Chadwick up a little.
Actually, it isn't as though Chadwick hasn't had decent advocates in the past -- Neeme Järvi and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have recorded both of these works for Chandos, and the Symphonic Sketches are in the catalog on Reference under José Serebrier and in a classic reading by Howard Hanson and the Eastman-Rochester Symphony. How does the Naxos hold up against these heavyweights? It's all right; the recording is a little dark and lacking in high end and while the performances are decent, it's a little rough around the edges. George Whitefield Chadwick: Symphony No. 2; Symphonic Sketches isn't the sharpest, most penetrating comment on Chadwick one has heard, but it isn't bad, and at Naxos' bargain price this takes Chadwick's best-known orchestral music out of the financial realm of "commitment" and into that of "experimentation." Who cares what the academics think? Shouldn't you be trying Chadwick's music out for yourself?