Danielpour: Celestial Night; Toward the Splendid City; Urban Dances

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COMPOSERS: Danielpour
WORKS: Celestial Night; Toward the Splendid City; Urban Dances
PERFORMER: Philharmonia Orchestra/Zdenek Macal
Toward the Splendid City may take its title from Pablo Neruda’s 1971 Nobel Prize address, but its substance is more personal: This is one of the few works Richard Danielpour has written away from New York, and it is drenched in just the sort of urban nostalgia Leonard Bernstein would have recognized. Significantly, like the majestic first section of “Celestial Night” or the sparkling “Urban Dances” that fill out this release, “Toward the Splendid City” resembles in its exuberant dance rhythms the Lenny of the “Candide” Overture or of the “Fancy Free” ballet. Who could have predicted that Bernstein, hounded so cruelly by music critics in his day, would be such a vital influence in American music at century’s end? Yet here it is: from Broadway’s Sondheim and Guettel to ballet’s Michael Torke and countless movie soundtracks, Bernstein’s insouciant populism is difficult to escape. Danielpour’s work is among the most disarming of this varied group: This is eclectic music of a particularly American sort, blissfully independent of both dreary academic trends and edgy minimalist impulse: Danielpour is a romantic. He means it when he tells us that “Celestial Night” was inspired by stargazing in peaceful New England while remembering the bustle of the city, or that a particularly colorful passage for celesta and vibes in “Toward the Splendid City” contains his memory of floating above New York at night on a plane and being dazzled by the city lights below. Zdenek Makal, who commissioned “Celestial Night” for his New Jersey Symphony, leads the Philharmonia Orchestra to a smooth landing in the heart of Danielpour’s musical city. Octavio Roca