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Theofanidis: Symphony No. 1 - Lieberson: Neruda Songs

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Customer Reviews

ASO moves from strength to strength

If they continue on the trend established by their first two releases, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's ASO Media label may become one of my favorite labels. For their second release, the orchestra pairs two compositions by a rising and an established composer. Christopher Theofanidis is the (relative) newcomer, and the work is his first symphony. Peter Lieberson is the established composer, with his "Neruda Songs."

The Symphony was premiered by the Robert Spano and the ASO in 2009, and it's clear that they know this music intimately. Theofanidis's symphony is a study in contrasts. It starts out with a unison wind line that contains all the motifs for the rest of first movement. When the rest of the orchestra enters, its with a lush sound well-suited to the orchestra.

Theofanidis writes melodically, in clearly defined structures that are easy to follow. This four-movement work is symphonic in every sense; dramatic, expansive, full of rich timbres and imaginative orchestration.

The second work on the release, is Peter Lieberson's "Neruda Songs." It's a good match for the Theofanidis Symphony. It also is richly orchestrated, with some distinctively Latino musical turns, in keeping with the Chilean poetry of Pablo Neruda. Lieberson originally wrote this orchestral song cycle for his wife, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. This recording features mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, who brings her own interpretation to the work (that's her picture on the album art, BTW).

O'Connor's warm delivery and sensitive phrasing give this work new life. The "Neruda Songs" are personal love letters Lieberson composed for his wife. This performance turns them into something more universal, yet still deeply moving.

Two substantial 21st Century works performed with authority and conviction -- the Atlanta Symphony's self-released CDs just keep moving from strength to strength.

Biography

Formed: Atalanta, GA

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Founded as a modest youth orchestra in 1945, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra developed in four decades into one of the most polished of America's regional orchestras. Its recordings for Telarc early in the digital era made it the darling of audiophiles and by the end of the 20th century, its excellent principal players and ensemble sound could compare to the best in North America. Similarly, the Atlanta Symphony Chorus is ranked among the best choirs attached to American orchestras, comparable to...
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