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Posted October 1, 2010
Naxos has just released the world premiere recording of John Corigliano’ s “ Mr. Tambourine Man,” in which the noted composer has created new musical settings for the lyrics to seven famous Bob Dylan songs. The project has “ high concept” written all over it, and will doubtless please the NPR “ Morning Becomes Eclectic” crowd. While there’ s no denying the sincerity of everyone involved, the results to my ears sound forced and awkward. Corigliano’ s orchestral arrangements range from lugubrious string sections to brass and woodwind passages full of rapid tempo shifts and jangling percussion, yet they actually divert attention from the words rather than support them. And each tune seems to drag on forever, especially the 7- minute “ Chimes of Freedom.” The lyrics are sung in an operatic-cum-art song style by soprano Hila Plittmann, who tries mightily— but ultimately fails— to inject a sense of naturalism into her vocal interpretations. Plitmann has an amazing voice that she is able to bend in weird and wonderful ways, but her delivery is too precise, too studied to make the words come alive. Part of the problem is the lyrics themselves. They’ re written in a streetwise vernacular that just doesn’ t work without Dylan’ s rough- edged delivery. Fortunately, this disc also includes a much more successful piece: a three-movement orchestral suite titled “ Three Hallucinations,” which is based on Corigliano’ s score for Ken Russell’ s film “ Altered States.” The tense, trancelike tonalities in the opening movement immediately establish an ominous mood fully appropriate to Russell’ s hallucinatory, cold sweat visuals. Corigliano’ s music successfully evokes and sustains the film’ s fever pitch atmosphere and is marked by numerous shifts of tone, at times radiating moments of eerie calm, at others exploding into frenzied atonality.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.