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Richard Danielpour: Darkness in the Ancient Valley based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
"Darkness in the Ancient Valley" makrs Richard Danielpour's return to his Persian heritage. The basis for this five-movement symphony is a 16th century Iranian poem. To my ears, the opening movement sounds like film music trying to evoke a Middle Eastern setting. But as the work progresses, pastiche gives way to passion, and the music develops its own blended and original voice. The final movement for orchestra and soprano (Hila Plitmann, for whom the part was written) brings the work home with an emotional and transcendent finale. Rounding out the release are two other orchestral works. "Lacrimae Beati" sounds a little like Copland with its open intervals. Although based on the first eight bars of Mozart's Requiem (reportedly the last music he ever wrote), Danielpour so completely integrates the source material that there's almost no trace of the original composer. And that's a good thing -- this is a deeply personal work, a musing on mortality. It would be jarring to Mozart's music stick out from the rest of the composition. "A Woman's Life," a setting of eight poems by Maya Angelou, has a distinctively American feel to it. But it's not Copland Americana. While the harmonies may sound similar, the rhythm of the words and the melodic seem to recall African-American gospel traditions. The work was composed for soprano Angela Brown, and her performance here infuses the words with understated drama and urgency. A beautiful orchestral song cycle that deserves a place in the repertoire.
Dramatic and compelling works on quite relevant topics. Richard Danielpour is a simply amazing composer who has developed a tonal, dramatic and dynamic sound that is reminiscent of many of the truly iconic American composers, including William Schuman and Roy Harris. However, Danielpour is gifted in his ability to insert modalities, orchestrations and structures which can evoke music of very different cultures, as well. Such is the case with his wonderful "Darkness in the Ancient Valley", essentially a five moment symphony which takes its inspiration from the tragic reality that women's place in Iran society is not at all what it is in the western world; frequently culminating in acts of violence. Danielpour draws upon his brief but memorable (in his words "unpleasant") childhood year spent in Iran (His own heritage being Persian). This very moving and thought-provoking work includes a finale ("Consecration") using the incredible Hila Plitmann to sing a text after a poem by the great Persian mystic, Rumi. This is a wholly engaging work and makes for an incredible and relevant addition to the symphonic repertoire. There is a bit of a theme to this very rewarding collection; one of the role of women in society. The seven-song cycle, "A Woman's Life", is sung by Angela Brown (who sung the role of Cilia in Danielpour's opera, "Margaret Garner") on texts by America's great poet-laureate Maya Angelou. The emotional power of the poetry, each one a "slice of life" of women in contemporary urban society, is reflected with genius by Danielpour's music and vocal lines, which - suitably - show a range of feeling from sadness to determination to irony to contentment. Angela Brown is an amazing, young singer who clearly brings her own experiences to her work. (Angela also has a compelling one-artist show that seeks to "demystify" opera for a mass audience) The other work on this disc is the short but beautiful "Lacrimae Beati" (Tears of the Blessed One); in reference to the sufferings of Jesus and his blessed mother, Mary, but specifically as interpreted by Mozart (in the "Lachrimosa" from his "Requiem") This work for strings does not reference any 'female' symbology but was Danielpour's heartfelt reaction to his accidental discovery of Mozart's mass pauper's grave and a life-threatening air flight on the way back to his stay in Berlin. All the music in this collection has the deeply felt emotion that its source materials would suggest (as do many of Danielpour's works, as I have noticed). He is a very important composer with a style that does sound uniquely American and, yet, uniquely his own; unlike any other living composer. I recommend this to anyone as a very fine introduction to his work. The Nashville Symphony, under conductor Giancarlo Guerrero plays wonderfully is one of the country's best orchestras that deserves to be better known.