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Monday, September 16, 2013

Kevin Puts, To Touch the Sky; If I Were A Swan; Symphony No. 4; Conspirare, Craig Hella Johnson, Baltimore Symphony, Marin Alsop

Kevin Puts (b 1972) writes music that has a contemporary feel to it yet is very lyric and tonal. A recent CD gives us a good look at him with three works of substance, To Touch the Sky, If I Were A Swan and Symphony No. 4 (Harmonia Mundi 907580).

The first two are acapella choral works of singular directness, with rich harmonies and spacious clarity, beautifully performed by Conspirare under Craig Hella Johnson. Text and music mesh together poetically, each paralleling and synchronizing together the pastoral expressiveness with affective evocations.

The third, Puts' "Symphony No. 4, From Mission San Juan," is based on Native American themes. Marin Alsop leads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in a stirring performance of this full fledged, well crafted work. It has greater contrapuntal and melodic-harmonic heft than the choral works, which is fitting, and feels like the contemporary equivalent of Copland and the Americana school of earlier days, like a contemporary complement with a special Putsian charm, a familiar-seeming yet rather youthfully distinguished voice of its own.

These World Premiere recordings give us notice that Kevin Puts has entered a realm of singular personality that will nonetheless have wide appeal to audiences seeking lyrical treasures. The performances realize the subtleties of the scores with a wonderful attention to detail, most especially in the symphony, and a warm enthusiasm, especially in the choral works. Definitely recommended.

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