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Genesis Suite
Shilkret, Tedesco, Stravinsky
Genesis Suite
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #1

This Hollywood project was the brainchild of Nathaniel Shilkret, a conductor and very minor composer who was a friend of Gershwin and conducted the first recording of An American in Paris. Shilkret got the idea of telling ...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Shilkret, Tedesco, Stravinsky, Janssen
Title: Genesis Suite
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Angel Records
Original Release Date: 1/1/1946
Re-Release Date: 11/6/2001
Album Type: Original recording remastered
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 724356772922

This Hollywood project was the brainchild of Nathaniel Shilkret, a conductor and very minor composer who was a friend of Gershwin and conducted the first recording of An American in Paris. Shilkret got the idea of telling the story of Genesis by assembling a group of famous composers (and himself) to write music accompanying passages from the Bible. He got the cream of the crop: Schoenberg, Tansman, Milhaud, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Stravinsky, and Toch. But most of them didn't provide the cream of their crops, and the experienced movie-music writers turned out things that sound like pretty good movie music, which fits well behind the narration, but doesn't hold the attention by itself. Schoenberg and Stravinsky are the exceptions, and their contributions ("Genesis Prelude" and "Babel," respectively) have had some independent life. Edward Arnold, who played Nero Wolfe and Daniel Webster among his 150 film roles, does a decent but unremarkable job with the narration; he is recorded so close-up that he is very easy to understand. The orchestra, Hollywood film musicians getting a chance to play "real" music, sounds extremely good, and the small chorus sings its minor parts well. The recording, from 1946, holds up surprisingly well. Overall, this is more a curiosity than a major artistic experience. But if you're interested in hearing it, grab it now. Things like this don't last long in the catalogs, and the old Capitol LP incarnation was selling for $100 and up before this CD came out. --Leslie Gerber

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CD Reviews

Bible Narration Set to Music By Distinguished Composers
Niel Shell | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 11/27/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It is a delight to see a reissue of this unusual piece whose contribution by Schoenberg was described privately by Shilkret, who commissioned the work, as "too futuristic to be appreciated." Hopefully, in the 56 years since this evaluation was made, the future has arrived. The music was so much out of the ordinary that reviews differed widely. Schoenberg's contribution was praised in MUSICAL REVIEWS as creating "an intense emotional response, delineated with brilliant clarity,'' and in the LOS ANGELES TIMES it was described as "starkly simple." Slonimsky, in MUSIC SINCE 1900, expressed a strong preference for "Creation," "one of the engaging sections of the work. . . by Nathaniel Shilkret."
The instrumental track was recorded by Werner Janssen on December 11, 1945. Janssen was one of the leading conductors of his time. He was an academy award nominee for a best musical score and the first native-born New Yorker to conduct the New York Philharmonic.
Edward Arnold recorded an accompanying narration in 1946, and Artist Records issued the combined tracks as album JS10. Due to problems with Artist, the album was to be reissued, and Janssen conceived of having Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill do the narration; both declined. Capitol Records chose a clergyman, Ted Osborne, and, in December 1950, he recorded a new narration. Capitol combined the new narration with the original instrumental track, changed the order of the pieces (Schoenberg's contribution was placed last by Artist and restored to its original number one position by Capitol), and issued the new combination as album P8125, reissued with excellent sound restoration as CD 67729.
All of the composers were the finest of the day. Shilkret, mistakenly described in a review by Leslie Gerber as a "very minor composer," composed hundreds of pieces (over ten thousand if incidental motion picture music and radio arrangements are counted), including "Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time," which sold almost two million copies of sheet music, the academy-award-nominated score to the movie "Winterset," and his most popular song, "Lonesome Road," recorded by over a hundred top artists, including Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Tommy Dorsey, Al Hirt, Chet Atkins, Trini Lopez, the Four Seasons, and Paul Robeson. The 1927 song has survived well enough than more than ten CD's have included a "Lonesome Road" track, with more soon to be released.
This album should have appeal to two audiences: first, those interested in a biblical narrative, which is enhanced here by pleasant music, and, second, those interested in hearing the work of top composers of the era performed by a top conductor of the era."