RECORDINGS & EVENTS A special eight-page section for readers in the US and Canada
Bartók . Hindemith . Prokofiev‘MiraculousMetamorphoses’BartókTheMiraculousMandarin, Sz73 – Suite Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Weber Prokofiev The Love for Three Oranges – Suite Kansas City Symphony Orchestra / Michael Stern Reference Recordings F RR132 (55’ • DDD)
The Kansas City Symphony have been on a roll with Michael Stern, the ensemble’s
Music Director since 2005. Along with their move into an acclaimed modern venue, they’ve been featured on several admired recordings. The newest is ‘Miraculous Metamorphoses’, a programme of 20th-century masterpieces from the opera, ballet and orchestral repertoires.
These are works that provide conductor and musicians with a spectrum of atmospheres and colours into which they can sink their respective teeth. Stern and his orchestra do so to captivating effect, without resorting to sonic exaggeration. Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Weber has tonal splendour to spare but it also receives a detailed account full of subtle gestures and disciplined ensemble.
Stern savours the biting satire in Prokofiev’s suite from The Love for Three Oranges, a fantastical opera in which a morose prince falls for the eponymous citrus, which are filled with lovely princesses. The suite is among the composer’s zestiest inventions and the Kansas City contingent make vibrant business of the score’s whimsies and hues.
Savagery dominates the narrative in Bartók’s suite from the ballet The Miraculous Mandarin, and there’s no shortage of vehemence in Stern’s account. The solo clarinet brilliantly essays the girl’s seductive machinations and the orchestra enter into the violent spirit of things with fierce sophistication. The recorded sound is a bit distant, so it helps to turn the volume up to gain the full impact of this searing performance. Donald Rosenberg talks to... Richard Danielpour The composer on his powerful oratorio Toward a Season of Peace
How was this momentous work conceived? I was composer-in-residence of the Pacific Symphony until 2001, and they asked me if I would write a work for the Persian New Year. I said yes, if I could represent the three religions of Iran – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
What is your connection with Iran? I was born in the US but as a child we moved to Iran for a year, where I became very ill. My mother is a sculptress and was commissioned by the Shah of Iran – she was going back and forth to Iran and then the revolution hit. There was the hostage crisis, I had an uncle who was executed…all these things made me want to want to keep my distance. But through poetry, I started revisiting my ancestral DNA.
There is singing in three languages… The chorus sing mostly in Hebrew and Arabic – they don’t sing in English until the
Apotheosis, as if to say, ‘Now we understand’. The soprano, singing an English translation of Rumi by Raficq Abdulla, is a mentor to them. How does the orchestra sound Persian? I used my childhood memories of the sounds I encountered in Iran. And I would do things with the instruments to make them sound less Western. I also used North African drums. What was the reaction at the premiere? There was an understanding that this was about building bridges, and a sense of relief that everyone could put their differences aside and come together as one human family.
Danielpour Toward a Season of Peace Hila Plitmann sop Pacific Chorale; Pacific Symphony Orchestra / Carl St Clair Naxos American Classics B 8 559772 (51’ • DDD • T/t). Recorded live at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa, CA, March 23-25, 2012
Richard Danielpour’s Toward a Season of Peace, set to Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Farsi and English texts including poems by the Persian poet Rumi, conveys its message in a series of spectacular set pieces which could have been lifted in Technicolor tone and spirit from Hollywood’s biblical epics of the
1950s: glittering, lush and at times barbaric. Danielpour’s exotically tinged melodic invention throughout, however, is purely the work of the Iranian-born American’s rich diversity of musical heritages. Moving from war and destruction to peace through forgiveness by way of Ecclesiastes and the Lord’s Prayer generates a lot of world-class virtuoso playing from the Pacific Symphony and lusty singing from the Chorale. On the podium, Carl St Clair is expert as always at articulating a score deftly and with maximum impact. There is a sense of moment to the playing, perhaps because the recording was made during the world premiere performances at the Symphony’s home base in March 2012, celebrating the Persian New Year. While the power raised from Danielpour’s score is massively impressive in the war and gramophone.co.uk
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