Alan Gilbert conducts orchestral works by Christopher Rouse, including Symphonies Nos 3 & 4

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COMPOSERS: Christopher Rouse
LABELS: Dacapo
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 3 & 4; Odna Zhizn; Prospero’s Rooms
PERFORMER: New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert
CATALOGUE NO: 8.226110


Although he writes in many genres, American composer Christopher Rouse is best known for his scintillating orchestral scores. Composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic from 2012 to 2015, three of the four works presented here were commissioned by the orchestra, and all the performances reflect Alan Gilbert’s strong commitment to this music. Rouse’s Third and Fourth Symphonies are at the heart of the disc. The impetuous opening of the Symphony No. 3, dominated by insistent winds and pugnacious percussion, takes its cue from Prokofiev’s Second, broadly following the proportions and combative yet coruscating spirit, though not the material, of its two-movement design.

The Fourth Symphony also has two movements. Rouse states explicitly that a meaning lies behind the music, but he does not wish to elucidate what it might be. What is clear is that the first movement, ‘Felice’, is cheerfully perky only for it to subside directly into the despondent second movement ‘doloroso’. The symphonies are prefaced by Odna Zhizn, literally ‘one life’, an elegy for a friend, and Prospero’s Rooms, an ‘overture to an unwritten opera’. Each has striking moments and, as with the symphonies, it is hard to imagine more committed advocacy than from Gilbert and the NYPO.


Christopher Dingle