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CHAN 5095
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CHAN 5095

Herrmann: Moby Dick/Sinfonietta

The Classical Shop
release date: October 2011

Recorded in 24 Bit / 96Khz
album available as a Studio Master
Originally recorded in 2011


Danish National Symphony Orchestra

Michael Schonwandt

David Wilson-Johnson

baritone (Ahab)

Richard Edgar-Wilson

tenor (Ishmael/Starbuck)

Danish National Choir


Koncerthuset, DR Byen, Copenhagen


Bernhard Guttler

Ralph Couzens

(Executive, Chandos)

Ivar Munk

(Executive, DR (Moby Dick))

Curt Kollavik-Jensen

(Executive, DR (Sinfonietta))


Jan Oldrup

Bjarne Lillevang Jensen

Record Label



Orchestral & Concertos

Total Time - 63:03
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Moby Dick (1936-38)

  A Cantata for Male Chorus, Soloists, and Orchestra  
  Text selected and arranged by W. Clark Harrington from the novel by Herman Melville  
  Poul Emborg tenor (Harpooner/Sailor/Voice)  
  Rasmus Gravers tenor (Pip)  
  Uffe Henriksen tenor (Drunken Sailor)  
1 Chorus: ''And God created great whales''. Maestoso - Più mosso - 1:07
2 Ishmael: 'Call me Ishmael'. Andante tranquillo - 3:24
  Ishmael: 'And in the wild conceits'. Agitato - Tempo I -  
3 Hymn. Chorus: 'The ribs and terrors in the whale'. 5:57
  Slowly and sombrely -  
  Chorus: 'With speed he flew to my relief'. Faster -  
  Chorus: 'My song for ever shall record'. Allegro moderato -  
  Maestoso - Molto allargando, Pesante - Adagio -  
4 Ishmael: 'At last anchor was up, the sails were set'. Moderato assai - 1:19
5 Ahab: 'Send everyone aft; mastheads there! Come down!' Allegro pesante - Pesante - 3:29
6 Ahab: 'Yonder, by the ever-brimming goblet's rim'. Lento - Tranquillo - 7:56
  Ahab: 'I, the wearer, see not its far flashing'. Agitato - Allargando - Tempo I - Accelerando -  
  Ahab: 'Dry heat upon my brow?' Slowly -  
  Ahab: 'Gifted with the high perception'. Agitato - A tempo (Lento) -  
  Ahab: 'Good night - …good night'. Tempo I -  
7 Voice: 'Hist, boys! Let's have a jig!' Allegro marcato - Allegro (hornpipe tempo) - 8:24
  Drunken Sailor: 'Oh! Jolly is the gale'. Meno mosso - Tempo I Slow -  
  Pip: 'Oh! Thou big white God aloft there'. Molto agitato (quasi Andante) - Tempo I -  
8 Ishmael: 'It was a clear steel-blue day'. Slowly and tranquilly - 8:57
  Ahab: 'Oh, Starbuck! It is a mild, mild wind'. Molto sostenuto -  
  Ahab: 'Aye, toil how we may'. Più mosso -  
  Ahab: 'Starbuck!' Molto sostenuto -  
9 Sailor: 'There she blows! There she blows!' Molto allegro - 2:00
  Ahab: 'Starbuck, some men die at ebb tide'. Lento -  
  Starbuck: 'Oh! my captain, my captain! go not! go not!' Agitato -  
10 Ahab: 'Lower away! Stand by the crew!' [Agitato] - 2:33
  Ahab: 'I turn my body from the sun'. Slowly - A tempo -  
  Ahab: 'Sink all coffins and all hearses'. Molto pesante -  
11 Ahab: 'Thus, I give up the spear!' [Molto pesante] - Pesante e più lento - Molto rallentando - 1:09
  Ishmael: ''And I only am escaped alone to tell thee''  
 Richard Edgar-Wilson tenor (Ishmael/Starbuck)
 David Wilson-Johnson baritone (Ahab)
  premiere recording of original version  

Sinfonietta (1935-36)

  for String Orchestra  
12 I Prelude. Slowly (Andante molto) - 3:35
13 II Scherzo. Presto - 2:34
14 III Adagio - 3:33
15 IV Interlude. Largo (softly as possible) - 2:31
16 V Variations 4:35
  Variation I. Adagio -  
  Variation II. Andante -  
  Variation III. Adagio -  
  Variation IV. Andante -  
  Variation V. Moderato -  
  Variation VI. Adagio -  
  Variation VII. Allegro  

Bernard Herrmann, born in New York in 1911 to Russian immigrants, is best known today as a composer of film music. Most notably he worked with Alfred Hitchcock on classic productions such as North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho, as well as on Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. But despite his strong ties to Hollywood, Herrmann always thought of himself as a composer who worked in film, and never as a ‘mere’ film composer.

 It was during his years as conductor and composer with the CBS Symphony Orchestra that Herrmann got the inspiration for Moby Dick – A Cantata. Initially, Herrmann intended the work as an opera, but he soon concluded that the stage was not an ideal medium for a musical version of Moby Dick – and a purely orchestral work could not make use of Herman Melville’s prose. A successful compromise was the cantata form, and Herrmann completed the work in 1938. It was premiered by John Barbirolli and the New York Philharmonic on 11 April 1940, the conductor describing the work as the most important work that he had heard from a young American composer.

For a short period in the early 1930s, Herrmann was inspired by the works of Arnold Schoenberg and his followers. The infatuation did not last long. It culminated – and ended – with the Sinfonietta for Strings of 1935 – 36, a work which never received a public performance. The Sinfonietta remained forgotten until the early 1960s when Herrmann adopted it as a model for the latter half of his famous film score to Hitchcock’s Psycho, which illustrates Norman Bates’s disturbed state of mind. This disc presents the premiere recording of the Sinfonietta in its original version.
The works are performed by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, joined by the Danish National Choir in Moby Dick, under the direction of Michael Schønwandt, Music Director of the Royal Danish Orchestra and the Royal Opera in Copenhagen, and Principal Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic. 

“... Herrmann’s score is dramatic and skilfully orchestrated, befitting a born film composer, with tension deftly maintained throughout the work’s 46 minutes... Michael Schønwandt and his Danish forces could not make a better case for Moby Dick. The orchestra and chorus are distinguished by tightness of ensemble and commitment to the drama. The soloists show a similar level of involvement ...”

Phillip Scott – Limelight – 26 April 2012

“...This CD effectively fills a gaping hole in the Herrmann discography with two of his major concert works in performances that are not likely to be matched and excellent modern sound. That is a description of Want List material.”

Arthur Lintgen – Fanfare – March/April 2012

          Performance ***      Sound ***

Franck Mallet – Classica – February 2012  

“...His {Herrmann] dramatic and atmospheric cantata ‘Moby Dick’ (from Melville’s novel) is here newly recorded and vividly capture’s the work’s excitement and moving reflection. Richard Edgar-Wilson and David Wilson-Johnson are excellent soloists in a sympathetic and amagination-stirring performance. Herrmann’s 1936 Sinfonietta (for strings) completes this enterprising release ...”

Colin Anderson – Time Out  - 8-14 December 2011

           ’Gramophone Choice’
"...In surround sound it is simply stunning with vivid singing and playing, all of the highest order..."

Richard Wigmore - Gramophone- December 2011

             “Gramophone Choice
“...thoroughly enjoyable and worthy of exploration.”

Malcolm Riley – Gramophone – December 2011


                Performance *****        Sound *****
“...This compelling release is a must for all fans of this prodigiously talented American composer and warrants an unqualified recommendation.”

Graham Williams –  10 October 2011

“... This is the first recording of the original version [The Sinfonietta], a strikingly well-crafted piece in five short movements, fascinating.. The Moby Dick Cantata is very different, much closer to the world of Herrmann’s later film music ... It’s a mix of imposing choral set-pieces, orchestral interludes and solo narrations – and this Danish performance captures its immediacy ... baritone David Wilson-Johnson is superb as the manic Captain Ahab.” ****

Andrew Clements – The Guardian – 30 September 2011

Michael Schoenwandt's new version of Bernard Herrmann's 1941 cantata clearly outshines the composer's own account on Unicorn Kanchana, which was authoritative but deeply flawed as far as the singing and orchestral playing was concerned. David Wilson-Johnson offers a predictably characterful Ahab, while Richard Edgar-Wilson's Ishamel annihilates John Amis's fragile, shaky original. The Danish orchestra play like they've always known this music, and the stereo sound (16-44) has both depth and immediacy.
T Muething

C Milburn