Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Danielpour: Darkness in the Ancient Valley
Nashville Symphony; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor
Angela Brown, soprano
Hila Plitmann, soprano
Darkness in the Ancient Valley is Richard Danielpour's attempt to 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.