Rouse: Symphony No. 2; Flute Concerto; Phaethon

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Flute Concerto; Phaethon
PERFORMER: Carole Wincenc (flute); Houston Symphony/Christoph Eschenbach
The American Christopher Rouse (b1949) is a composer to whom elegies come naturally. The Symphony No. 2, Flute Concerto and ‘mini concerto for orchestra’ here were inspired by, respectively, the death in a car crash of composer Stephen Albert, the murder of British toddler James Bulger, and the 1986 Challenger disaster. The last work, Phaethon, confronts violent death in the most brutal and musically demanding way: in just eight minutes it tells of man’s bravery and fall from grace. In the Nineties Rouse has rediscovered tonality, and his Flute Concerto of 1993 is appealingly lyrical. The outer movements – both entitled ‘Ànhran’, Gaelic for song, in recognition of the composer’s Celtic roots – are especially likeable, while the central Adagio confronts the terrible Bulger case more in sorrow than in anger. There is a very great rage against death, however, in the intense slow movement of Symphony No. 2, completed in 1994 and dedicated to Christoph Eschenbach. For all the sound and motion in the quicker outer sections, it’s more difficult to discern a distinctive voice when Rouse is not lamenting. Eschenbach coaxes fine and loving performances. Stephen Maddock