Dimensions: Works for Orchestra, Vol. 2
Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra/Jiri Petrdlik
Dimitris Kotronakis, guitar. Athens Philharmonia Orchestra/Michalis Economou
Lucie Silkenova, soprano. Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra/Pavel Snajdr, Petr Vronsky
Navona Records 6251
Total Time: 56:45
Dimensions is a collection of new orchestral music featuring four smaller works paired with a guitar concerto. Each of the pieces here features fascinating orchestral colors and engaging music.
Erich Stem’s Portland is a rather colorful work depicting this Western city. Stem’s piece is part of a series of musical postcards featuring American cities. Here he has carefully merged elements of Native American chanting and drumming that informs some of the musical materials. The piece is intended as much a discovery of explorers Lewis and Clark and has a rather filmic quality to its musical narrative. Bill Whitley’s Bonzai Down opens with a burst of energy that also has Asian quality at first, but at its heart is also set in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and the Bonzai Trail in McDonald Forest. A rondo-like structure allows for moments of serene beauty amid the excitement of this equally colorful orchestral piece. Texts by Walt Whitman form the basis for A Letter From Camp. Brian T. Field’s work for soprano and orchestra gives us the opportunity to reflect upon war through the experiences of a farm family faced with the devastation of the Civil War. As such it opens with trumpet calls and a more dissonant blend of harmonies in a burst that gives way to first spoken text. A reference to a Bach chorale also adds to the flavor of this piece with more Americana orchestrally writing that emerges to set the tone. The work reaches for a more universal metaphor that causes pause for reflection. The vocal line here is often stunning in its beauty but sometimes feels just a bit too recessed in the spoken dialogue sections. The final work on the album is Jan Jarvlepp’s Street Music which brings us to an exciting conclusion with its driving percussion and brass writing that make this a rather fitting close with its lighter style perfect for a pops program.
The larger work on this program is Mark Francis’ Guitar Concerto No. 2, ”In Somnis Veritas”. The subtitle provides a clue to the unfolding of the music to follow as a series of dreams across the three movements. The opening movement invites us in gently to a quite dream state. The music has an arch-like form here moving us back to where we began. The second movement picks up motives from the first as the tempo also picks up. The tripartite structure features a slower central section for solo guitar, a striking moment. The final movement begins to veer a bit into bizarreness with interesting percussion effects and motives that begin to morph into stranger ways. The speed also increases as adding to excitement as previous motives and themes come to the forefront before an exciting conclusion. Soloist Dimitris Kotronakis provides a truly moving performance with gorgeous playing that moves well into the later technical demands.
The performances for these works seem to be among the finest of Navona’s catalogue to date. The music may be one of the main reasons with its more accessible musical language and engaging musical colors. The pieces seem to have slightly more energy from the players as well. The music here comes out of a more tonal Romanticism that is very attractive to modern audiences and this collection features all strong pieces that should reveal more with repeated listening. Highly recommended.