During 2011 Hans Sorensen was busy on behalf of Bernard Herrmann (1911-75), compiling a ‘Suite from’ Herrmann’s ambitious Lyric Drama, Wuthering Heights, based on Emily Brontë’s novel, as well as adapting Herrmann’s string quartet, Echoes, for string orchestra.
Herrmann, best-remembered as a film composer, not least for Hitchcock – including North by Northwest, Psycho, and Vertigo, and his debut movie score was for Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane – yet he also composed concert works, including an impressive Symphony, and conducted a range of repertoire.
Threatening timpani strokes and an ominous atmosphere inform the opening of the Suite, an hour-long selection from a stage-work that required four LPs for the composer-conducted recording first released in 1967 on Pye and then on Unicorn in 1971, https://www.discogs.com/master/690985-Bernard-Herrmann-Wuthering-Heights?image=14851800.SW1hZ2U6NDQ3MjI2NjA%3D. As presented by Sorenson, the music is mostly raptly lyrical, very beautiful at any one moment, never less than heartfelt, if with sameness creeping in over the sixty minutes, although there are theatrical and climactic moments. It’s a two-sided collection, featuring the leads that are Cathy and Heathcliff, sung admirably by Keri Fuge and Roderick Williams, both deeply involved in their respective roles as well as exemplary in terms of enunciation and, therefore, compelling purveyors of emotions and descriptions (Chandos’s booklet includes the sung texts). The Singapore Symphony is in excellent form with Mario Venzago a sympathetic conductor, and the recorded sound is first-class, the vocalists always clear without spotlighting, the Orchestra vivid and dynamic.
Allowing that the original’s intimacy may be compromised by the use of a string orchestra, the twenty-minute Echoes proves to be austere and bittersweet, its secrets not easily given up, the music suggestive of isolation, sometimes reminding of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, those Shostakovich String Quartets that Rudolf Barshai arranged, brief glimpses of Arvo Pärt, and indeed Herrmann’s score for Psycho. Now conducted by Joshua Tan, the Singaporean strings field a depth of tone and a sheen that connects totally to Herrmann’s writing and communicates it impressively. Chandos CHSA 5337 [SACD].