CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


Baltimore Symphony Premieres Danielpour's "Rocking the Cradle"

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere of Richard Danielpour’s Rocking the Cradle Thursday evening at the Meyerhoff Concert Hall in Baltimore. The extensive program notes, with quotes from an interview with the composer, framed the piece programmatically as anti-war with movement headings such as Shock and Awe and In Memory of the Innocent. Danielpour notes that his “hot-blooded” connection with music has disallowed him from ever writing absolute music.

Richard Danielpour (b. 1956), photo by Bill Bernstein
The external context surrounding the work offered listeners a special opportunity to produce their own narratives in an attempt to understand its representation. For example, from the composer’s pacifist point of view, the Shock and Awe movement could represent the polarity between the voice of reason and the voice of aggression. Perhaps the voice of reason, a quick five-note repeated motif in unison found throughout the movement, was fighting the surrounding and somewhat random musical chaos that represented the voice of aggression. At the very end of the movement, the character of the five-note voice of reason is defiled by that of the voice of aggression – the march to war.

With help from the program notes, the second movement, In Memory of the Innocent, could be programmatically interpreted as the battle, death, and mourning of a life lost to war. The soft opening of the movement quickly builds in intensity with the strings playing a passionate multi-octave upward motif. Suddenly, the music goes back and forth between that and the soft material at the beginning of the movement. The section then ends, possibly representing the end of a battle and death of an innocent. The next section, begun by the cello section, has an ethereal quality, possibly representing life after death. The music flashes back and forth between material from the first section – perhaps flashbacks of the battle – and the piece ends in a mournful, unresolved way. Half of the audience was on their feet praising the work, while the other half politely clapped in their seats. This concert nearly coincides with the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War.

Other Reviews:

Tim Smith, 'Cradle': a gripping anti-war symphony (Baltimore Sun, March 24)

Ronni Reich, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Washington Post, March 24)

Tim Smith, BSO's symphonic protest music (Baltimore Sun, March 23)
In the rest of the program, Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena led Ravel’s Bolero and both suites of Daphnis and Chloë with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. Conducting without a score, Mena opened Suite 2 with broad gestures in slow motion. Speaking of large gestures, Mena also gave two, perfectly timed jumps to cue climaxes in the movement, with his feet landing as the full forces of the orchestra entered. The wind players and concertmaster, Jonathan Carney, executed their solos with virtuosity and poise.

This concert repeats this evening at 8 pm, and Saturday (without Bolero, as a casual concert) at 11 am. The BSO will not bring this program to Strathmore.

No comments: