Concertos for Orchestra: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Louis Langrée

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COMPOSERS: Currier,Escaich,Zhou
LABELS: Fanfare Cincinnati
ALBUM TITLE: Concertos for Orchestra
WORKS: Zhou: Concerto for Orchestra; Escaich: Psalmos; Currier: FLEX
PERFORMER: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/ Louis Langrée


It’s 12 years since the Cincinnati Symphony, under its then music director, Paavo Järvi, triumphantly paired the Bartók and Lutoslawski Concertos for Orchestra on disc (Telarc, 2005). Succeeding Järvi in 2013, Louis Langrée determined to build on the legacy of that recording as part of an ongoing initiative to facilitate contemporary orchestral writing, and to showcase anew the prowess and sonic character of the Cincinnati. Three diverse composers were duly commissioned for the 2015/16 season and each world premiere recorded live.

Composers Zhou Tian, Thierry Escaich and Sebastian Currier offer complementary yet distinctive takes on this most extrovert of orchestral genres, with varying success. Least convincing, with its directionless inner movements, is Escaich’s Psalmos, sinfonia concertante pour orchestre, named for his use of Bach chorales within a supposedly symphonic arc – and perhaps also to avoid confusion with the Concerto for Orchestra he composed for the 2015 opening of the Philharmonie de Paris.

The Cincinnati attacks each work with virtuoso relish, however, delivering edge-of-the-seat rides in which scrappy moments are impressively few. Where Zhou exploits a vast, Romantic – unashamedly self-indulgent – colourscape in his Concerto for Orchestra, it is Currier’s FLEX that provides brilliant sharpness. Herein lies the meat of the project, couched in quirkily compressed forms and dazzling harmonic and melodic-rhythmic swirls. Crucially, there is deeper purpose to this rigorous, expressive work, which explores the psychology of group dynamics.


Steph Power