WORKS: Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: Alain Lefevre (piano)Pacific SO/Carl St Clair
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7250-2 DDD
The 56-year-old American John Corigliano has, in the past few years, been acclaimed both for his First Symphony, a response to AIDS, and the opera The Ghosts of Versailles. His style is frequently summarised by that loaded word ‘eclectic’, and this is no less appropriate as a description of his 1968 Piano Concerto than it is of his later music.
Individuality here comes not so much from the material itself, which draws on composers from Mahler to Stravinsky and Bartók, but from his treatment of it. This isn’t, as so often, merely a question of brilliant orchestration or assured technique generally, but something less tangible. Corigliano makes you believe in familiar gestures and keeps attention by sureness of purpose and sheer panache. Variety and subtlety of rhythm and texture all add to the effect. There’s a real composer at work here.
I don’t feel this with his 36-year-old compatriot Frank Ticheli. Radiant Voices (1992-3), designed as an antidote to feelings aroused by the 1992 Los Angeles riots, occasionally made me think of James MacMillan’s kind of eclectic mix, but is ultimately, like the short Postcard (1993), too typical of continuing trends in bright, brash American orchestral pieces to survive the comparison. Keith Potter