Christopher Russell / Azusa Pacific University Symphony Orchestra

Leopold Damrosch: Symphony in A major; Festival Overture; Schubert: Marche Militaire (orch. Damrosch)

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Leopold Damrosch is noted for his work with musical institutions in New York, primarily as an early conductor of the New York Symphony Society (which later merged with the New York Philharmonic) and the Metropolitan Opera, but in his time he was also known as a violinist and composer, as well as an arranger. Even so, little of his oeuvre has entered the repertoire, and this recording by Christopher Russell and the Azusa Pacific University Symphony Orchestra is the first release on CD of his Festival Overture in C major, Op. 15 (1871), and his Symphony in A major (1878). While the overture owes an obvious debt to Wagner's Die Meistersinger, and the symphony is strongly reminiscent of Bruckner's early symphonic style, neither work rises to the level of mastery, and Damrosch's derivative music is unlikely to inspire a revival. Perhaps the most enjoyable track of this album is Damrosch's orchestral arrangement of Schubert's Marche Militaire, which, in spite of its rather heavy scoring, has the music of a true genius going for it. The student musicians are a bit under-rehearsed, but they seem adequate to the task. However, Toccata's reproduction is thick and murky, which makes listening more of a chore than a pleasure.

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