Leon Kirchner: Orchestral Works

Leon Kirchner: Orchestral Works

by Leon Kirchner
     
 
Leon Kirchner (1919-2009) was one of most widely respected if infrequently performed American composers of the late 20th century. He was a student and devotee of Schoenberg, although he did not adhere to serial procedures in his own work. In the mind of the musical public, Kirchner was grouped with the ivory-tower academicians who dominated

Overview

Leon Kirchner (1919-2009) was one of most widely respected if infrequently performed American composers of the late 20th century. He was a student and devotee of Schoenberg, although he did not adhere to serial procedures in his own work. In the mind of the musical public, Kirchner was grouped with the ivory-tower academicians who dominated elite East Coast university faculties who were disparaged for writing densely complex music that was out of touch with modern audiences. It's easy to see how Kirchner would be pigeonholed into that stereotype; he taught at Harvard, and his unabashedly modernist music required focused listening to be understood. His music, though, like Berg's, was intensely expressive. Among professionals, including some of the most outstanding performers of his time, he was admired for the integrity and individuality of his music. A willing listener might not understand everything going on in his music on first hearing, but could hardly miss perceiving its sweeping emotional content. The three pieces on this album, recorded between 1956 and 1992, make a superb introduction to Kirchner's work. The 1953 "Piano Concerto," played here by the composer and accompanied by Dimitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic, is perhaps the most impressive work. Its outer movements have a Beethovenian propulsiveness and convey a barely contained anguish, full of memorably furious gestures as well as moments of great delicacy. The second movement, in spite of its sometimes spiky harmonic language, has long lyric lines undeniably Romantic in their expressiveness. "Lily," another ambitious work, was written as a study for his opera of the same name, which was based on Saul Bellows' sprawling novel, Henderson the Rain King, and premiered by the New York City Opera in 1976. Written for soprano, chamber ensemble, and tape, the score colorfully evokes the landscapes and natural sounds of Africa. The singer's part is divided between the fabricated language of Mtalba, an African princess, and a boozy meditation by Henderson's wife, Lily. Singing with pure, focused tone, Diana Hoagland is hugely impressive in the demanding coloratura part. "Music for Orchestra" from 1969 is a briefer piece, but effective in its energy and vivid orchestration. The sound is vintage, but mostly clean and clear.

Product Details

Release Date:
06/14/2011
Label:
Albany Records
UPC:
0034061127529
catalogNumber:
1275

Tracks

  1. Piano Concerto No. 1
  2. Lily for soprano & chamber orchestra

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