Randall Thompson (1899-1984) was quite a popular American composer in the 1940s and 1950s. Best known for his choral music, he also wrote three symphonies, the second of which is probably the best remembered. For a time it fell into general neglect, but it occasionally turns up on a concert program; the several recordings of the work that appeared in the 1990s were perhaps signs of a revival in its fortunes.
The Second Symphony, cast in four movements, is quite direct and simple in its expressive language. The first movement (Allegro) is muscular and heroic, but also has a playful manner about it. Overall, the music here abounds in excitement and rhythmic appeal; it is full of the bright colors and naïve charm that any high-school chorister who has sung Thompson's music will know. The ensuing Largo is lovely and sentimental, with the character, in places, of a score for a lavish 1930s big-screen love story. Some passages sound like a mixture of Hanson and Korngold, although the latter was probably unknown to Thompson at the time.
The heroic vigor of the Vivace third movement charms, and the Finale, which opens with an attractive Andante moderato, then moves on to an upbeat and rhythmically driven Allegro con spirito and provides a colorful and exciting close. In the end, one is prompted to wonder why this charming work is not more popular.