OTHERWORDLY MUSIC

When I first heard a work by the late American composer Christopher Rouse – a performance of his symphony no. 6, his last – I wrote “… the now somber, now nervous, now agitated, now elegiac tone says with rare profoundness what mere words cannot begin to convey. In four movements, the sections of Rouse’s slow-fast-fast-slow structure segue into each other episodically — moments of reflective stasis contrast with blunt agitation, evoking life’s vicissitudes. Massive tone clusters from the large brass section, augmented by startling percussive outbursts, are suddenly juxtaposed with passages of eerie near stillness underpinned by jittery activity in the lower strings. Cantabile passages and peaceful soli for woodwinds alternate with massive statements from the amassed orchestra.”

Heaven forbid I should be taken to imply that Rouse repeats himself as I repeat my year-old words in the context of this review. On the contrary, this composer’s gift for finding unpredictable sounds from instruments often taken for granted thanks to his uncanny genius for orchestrating is more than ever before present in this remarkable performance of three works, including the impressive Symphony No. 5 by Christopher Rouse with the enormously gifted Giancarlo Guerrero leading the superb Nashville Symphony Orchestra issued by Naxos.

Supplica, an inspired composition brief in duration, serenely beautiful, leaning towards tonality while not altogether abandoning the freedom that Rouse’s free-wheeling use of atonality and polytonality provides the composer, gives the listener a welcome oasis of tranquility before the Concerto for Orchestra, where once more the composer demonstrates his ability to fearlessly take the listener from restlessness in tempo and melody lines to pockets of mysterious quiet.

This listener can think of no other composer in our time who can so enticingly transport us into music of such other sonic worlds.

Rafael de Acha

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