SCHOENBERG: Finding Rothko. American Symphoony. Picture Studies.
STUCKY: Rhapsodies. American Muse. Concerto for Orchestra.
American composer Adam Schoenberg (b. 1980) is one of today's most successful classical composers. He studied at Oberlin Conservatory and Juilliard (where he now teaches), and has written many works which have been widely performed. Schoenberg has a special relationship with Michael Sterrn and the Kansas City Symphony, where since 2012 he is compose-rn- residence. This new disk offers three of his works. Finding Rothko composed in 2006 while Schoenberg was studying with John Corigliano, is scored for chamber orchestra. It has four short movements: Orange, Yellow, Red, and White. Each section is prefaced by "Rothko's Theme," to unify the set. American Symphony, commissioned by and premiered by the Kansas Orchestra, dates from 2011. It was inspired by Copland's Symphony No. 3 and intended to be a true "American" symphony. There are five movements: Fanfare, White on Blue, Rondo, Prayer, and Stars,, Stripes and Celebration. The third work, Picture Studies. dates from 2012, another Kansas Orchestra commission, with the purpose of creating a 21st century Pictures at an Exhibition. It consists of eight sections: Intro, Three Pierrots, Repetition, Olive Orchard, Kandinsky, Calder's World, Interlude, Cliffs of Moher, and Pigeons in Flight. Artists/photographers represented include Bloch, Baasch, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Calder, Miró, Sugimoto, and Blake, with a "ghost-like" piano theme connecting them. It is unfortunate program notes do not include illustratiuons of the works invoilved. There are detailed program notes by the composer describing what inspired all three works, and describing them. We can be sure the performances heard here are exactly what the composer intended; the Kansas Orchestra is in virtuoso form, and the audio is state-off-the-art. I find this music consistently pleasant, sometimes imaginative and of most interest in its numerous serene moments, which usually have a woodwind solo. American Symphony is surprisingly subdued, with a final movement that is decidedly unfestive Surely Schoenberg's Picture Studies will never challenge Mussorgsky's masterpiece. There is much pleasant music here, but little of lasting substance for this listener.Some of this music is available on YouTube. Check it out before getting this disk.
Steven Edward Stucky (1838-2016) had a distinguished career. He had had a close relationship with a number of major orchestras including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where since 1988 he was composer-in-residence Stucky is recognized as an authority on music of Witold Lutoslawsky, and his book about the famed composer won theASCAP Deems Taylor award. Hr has composed concertos for varied instruments, and two for orchestra, the second of which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005. This site mentioned a recording of Stucky's Son et Lumière reviewed many years ago by R.D. (REVIEW), and a disk of piano music (REVIEW). Now we have this superb SACD of orchestral music.
Rhapsodies was a joint commission from the New York Philharmonic and the BBC Proms, and dates from 2008,. It is a brilliant, dramatic nine-minute work of beauty and contrasts, ending softly. American Muse was a commission from the Los Angeles Philharmonic premiered in 1999. This is a four-part setting of poems of e.e. cummings, John Bryman, A. R. Ammons, and Walt Whitman. There is sadness and humor in the set, and they are sung beautifully by baritone Sanford Sylvan, who had premiered them. The real gem of this disk is Concerto No. 2 for Orchestra, a true masterpiece with stimulating orchestration—and it must be very demanding for the entire orchestra - indeed a display piece for orchestra. This is music of substance, and it is easy to understand why it won a Pulitzer Prize. This is a major masterpiece of the 21st century. Performances are superb - the Boston Modern Orchestra is a group virtuosos, and conductor Gil Rose obviously understands this music. A spectacular issue!. Audio is wide-range and clear, if not particuoaroy "surround." Program niotes are by the composer, and texts are provided for the poems. Don't miss it!
R.E.B. (January 2017).