Monday, July 11, 2011
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's New Label Off to Good Start: the Music of Theofanidis and Lieberson
Robert Spano and the Atlantic Symphony are doing excellent work. The orchestra's new label ASO Media is not only a good idea in a current climate where self-determination is often the best option; it is also providing in its first two releases some important interpretations of works by composers who deserve attention. The second release (CD-1002) is a good example. Christopher Theofanidis's "Symphony No. 1" and Peter Lieberson's "Neruda Songs" contrast nicely and make a fine listening experience individually as well.
Gongs, mallet instruments, chimes and winds set against translucent string writing on the ecstatic Theofanidis symphony. It has the multifold, lyrical sunlight-and-air feeling of the best Sibelius works, yet it manages to sound more contemporary by extending its musical syntax into long interwoven strands of motives and sound color with episodic linearity. Theofanidis's poetic command of the orchestral sounds available to him and the way he corrals then to his expressive ends impress and excite. This is ravishing music to chase away your dark moments.
Lieberson's "Neruda Songs" on the other hand is moodier, a little heavier, like a set of plush velvet curtains. Mezzo-soprano Kelly O'Connor seems a very proper instrument for this music, declamatory and full-bodied. Post-Wagnerian-Mahlerian-Bergian heft in the orchestra give gravitas to the poem settings. It's a satisfying listen.
Mediterranian sunlit dazzle versus Teutonic ponderousness. Theofanidis versus Lieberson. Fine performances, well-recorded. Everything seems right about this one. Highly recommended.