ALBUM TITLE: Schwantner
WORKS: A Sudden Rainbow; Beyond Autumn; Angelfire; September Canticle
PERFORMER: Anne Akiko Meyers (violin), Gregory Hustis (horn), James Diaz (organ); Dallas SO/Andrew Litton
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67493
The American composer Joseph Schwantner, now in his early sixties, writes wonderfully for orchestra, with glowing sustained chords and trademark gleams of high percussion. His 1986 orchestral showpiece A Sudden Rainbow holds interest throughout its 13 minutes, with clear structures and thematic processes as well as bright colours.
It’s followed here by three more recent single-movement pieces with a solo instrument: Angelfire, with virtuoso violin; Beyond Autumn, with poetic horn; and September Canticle, with unflamboyant organ. All are again expertly written and easy to follow, but some recurring features pall before the end of the disc: supposedly dramatic interventions by unpitched percussion which are all too thumpingly obvious; passages which drift towards the end of a work in slowly rotating ostinatos. And September Canticle, a meditation on the events of 9/11, doesn’t quite seem to pull together the disparate elements of Renaissance chord-progressions, baroque fugue and Coplandesque string lamentation.
Andrew Litton’s excellent Dallas Symphony Orchestra does full justice to all the works, though the recording leaves it somewhat recessed. And the three soloists for whom the later pieces were written could hardly be bettered.Anthony Burton