WORKS: Creations; To Music; Voyage; Campane di Ravello – A Celebration Piece for Sir Georg Solti; Elegy; Promenade Overture
PERFORMER: I Fiamminghi/Rudolf Werthen
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80421
It should have come as no surprise when the most conservative major opera house in the world, New York’s Metropolitan, chose to commission John Corigliano to compose its centennial opera, for here is one of those composers for whom classical music means THE PAST. But unlike post-modernist composers who raid the past to cast new – perhaps quirky, or disturbing – light upon it, Corigliano’s is an essentially 19th-century outlook. His aim is COMMUNICATION, which means big, big melodies (well, almost), lots of heaving rhetoric and heaps of SERIOUS INTENTION. Old wine in old bottles, no less.
In his liner notes Corigliano pays lip-service to his desire to bring ‘advanced techniques’ to a wider audience. But, sadly, these rarely permeate the fabric of the music. So in the longest piece on this disc, Creations, the clusters, glissandi and scratchings depicting chaos are gradually (and skilfully) transformed into the real object of Corigliano’s affections, a Coplandesque ‘prairie’ tune celebrating the creation of Man. And in the shorter pieces, the somnolent Voyage for flute and string orchestra, and Promenade Overture, with its genuflection to the Candide overture, they scarcely cause more than a ripple to the ultra-traditional surface.
In an earlier age Corigliano could have made a comfortable living churning out film scores: his versatility, orchestral wizardry and fluency are undeniable (and adequately met by these performances). But if in doubt, compare Stravinsky’s Birthday Greeting with Corigliano’s Campane di Ravello – ‘A Celebration Piece for Sir Georg Solti’ to discover the difference between real genius and mere talent. When so many individual composers await even a first recording, this disc seems a luxury well worth forgoing. Antony Bye