Corigliano: Phantasmagoria; Fantasia on an Ostinato; Three Hallucinations

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Corigliano
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Corigliano: Phantasmagoria
WORKS: Phantasmagoria; Fantasia on an Ostinato; Three Hallucinations
PERFORMER: Tampere PO/Eri Klas
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1058-2
The more I hear of John Corigliano’s music, the more I like it. He has an enquiring ear, prepared to learn from the modernists, but he also has roots in late-Romanticism, the sound collages of Charles Ives, Hollywood and perhaps even the great American cartoon soundtracks. The result is music that sounds pointedly ironic one moment, warmly open-hearted the next, where desolation alternates with uproarious humour, orgiastic violence with touching sentimentality. Titles like Phantasmagoria and Three Hallucinations are entirely apt for music that seems to spend most of its time teetering across a vertiginous stylistic tightrope. And yet it’s all clearly the work of one strongly individual mind.

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So too is the fascinating Fantasia on an Ostinato, even though most of its material actually derives from the famous Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Actually I think the Fantasia works better in what I presume is its original version for piano solo. Brilliant as Corigliano’s orchestration is, the piano’s subtler colours are better suited to this intimate dream-dissection of Beethoven’s mesmerizing repeated rhythm. Even so the performances are highly accomplished and seem thoroughly absorbed throughout, and the recordings don’t let them down – everything emerges with clarity and conviction.

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Stephen Johnson