Corigliano: Of Rage and Remembrance; Symphony No. 1

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COMPOSERS: Corigliano
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Of Rage and Remembrance; Symphony No. 1
PERFORMER: Michelle DeYoung (mezzo-soprano); Oratorio Society of Washington, Choral Arts Society of Washington, National SO/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68450 2
‘The pose of the misunderstood artist is tiresome and old-fashioned. I wish to be understood, and I think it is the job of every composer to reach out to his audience.’ This profession of faith by John Corigliano echoes those socially conscious American composers of the Thirties, like Copland and Elliott Carter, and some of the early pieces on these discs actually sound like them. The Elegy in particular has that kind of plangent, lean lyricism you find in Copland’s ballets. But for Corigliano, ‘reaching out’ to the audience means putting it on a roller coaster and wringing its heart (and afterwards handing out the musical equivalent of Kleenex). Every aspect of the music is as guilelessly clear and appealing as the brilliant Day-Glo orchestral colours: the busy counterpoint, which semaphores its cleverness at you in flags several yards high; and the forms, which always move to a big climax end either with a crash or a misty fade-out. Being all brilliant surface, the works need only brilliance in performance, which they certainly get here. The later works on disc 2 strike a more sombre note, being laments for the scourge of AIDS. The music wears its heart absolutely on its sleeve, but the dignified and restrained performance (mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung is especially good) rescues the music from sentimentality. Ivan Hewett