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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Adam Schoenberg, American Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Michael Stern

Is Adam Schoenberg the American Sibelius? Maybe. I haven't heard such ravishingly beautiful, unabashed orchestral lyricism since the Finnish master put notes to paper. That is, on Adam's new album of works American Symphony - Finding Rothko - Picture Studies (Reference RR-139 SACD).

The Kansas City Orchestra under Michael Stern gives us its fully concentrated, fully idiomatic readings of the program. They seem ideally dedicated to bringing out the music's broadly bright sonarities and subtly powerful climaxes.

There is more modernism to be heard in this music, some spicy dissonances and rhythmically exotic moments well placed amidst the poetic shimmer. And surely Schoenberg is not in any way out to copy Sibelius's unique style. But it all comes out with such a gloriously gentle and alternatingly uproarish rapture, that we experience after a few listens something akin to what we feel after hearing a mature Sibelius symphony, or perhaps Copland's glowing "Appalachian Spring."

And each work does have programmatic elements: the pastoral Americana of the symphony, the color affinities of "Finding Rothko," the art and pictorial references of the movements in "Picture Studies."

Here is a modern music that anybody might find beautiful. It has the ability to remain very approachable for almost anyone's ears. And yet there is a great deal of innovative brilliance of substance in every bar. That is rare and I might go as far to say that Adam Schoenberg is headed for a career of wide acclaim.

Hear this music by all means. It is sorely needed in our troubled times!

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