DANIELPOUR Toward a Season of Peace • Carl St. Clair, cond; Hila Plitmann (s); Pacific S; Pacific Chorale • NAXOS 8.559772 (50:40) Live: Costa Mesa, CA 3/22–25/2012
Richard Danielpour is one of those few—very few—living composers who have a voice so distinctive that his music is usually instantly recognizable upon first hearing. It is also, to a large extent, a throwback to an earlier age when composers were not averse to infusing their scores with sensuous orchestration, rhythmic vitality, and passionateRead more lyricism. Every work I have ever heard by Danielpour has impressed me, and Toward a Season of Peace does so in spades. In fact, it may well be his magnum opus and, at 50 minutes, possibly his longest aside from the opera Margaret Garner.
This seven-part oratorio, completed in 2011, is set to religious texts and takes as its point of departure the unending strife in the Middle East. (Danielpour was born to Iranian parents but has always been an American citizen.) “Perhaps the thing of greatest concern to me,” writes Danielpour, “is how the peoples of this part of the world have used religion to remain at war with one another, in spite of the fact that Jews, Muslims and Christians all believe in ‘One God.’ Ironically, all the great religions speak of peace as a fundamental goal for humanity….This is the reason for my using multiple languages in Toward a Season of Peace” (the season being Spring, a common metaphor for change, transformation and renewal).
So immediate and directly appealing is Danielpour’s music that the texts are almost superfluous. The opening chord grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. The biblical grandeur of Bloch’s Schelomo and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast come readily to mind. Later we encounter dances filled with the asymmetrical rhythms and raw energy of Bernstein at his best (think of the Chichester Psalms and the “Jeremiah” Symphony) and the wild exuberance of the Bacchanal from Samson and Delilah or the Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome.
Danielpour is a superb orchestrator, and makes much use of a large percussion section. This is music of dark beauty, hushed mystery, sweeping gestures, deeply moving elegies, and awesome climaxes that threaten to sweep you right out of the room. It is almost certain to become one of the early 20th century’s great choral works, and will definitely be on my Want List come December.
Program notes are minimal but hardly necessary. The engineering is as impressive as the playing. A sense of total commitment on the part of the orchestra, the chorus, and the conductor is almost palpable. I have no reason to doubt soprano Hila Plitmann’s commitment as well, but unfortunately her thin, tremulous voice does no justice to the major role she plays in the work—the only blot on an otherwise sensational production.
Toward a Season of Peaceby Richard Danielpour Performer:
Hila Plitmann (Soprano)
Carl St. Clair
Pacific Symphony Orchestra,
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
A Modern MasterworkApril 18, 2014By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA)See All My Reviews"Richard Danielpour's "Towards a Season of Peace" is an ambitious work -- and one that succeeds in that ambition. Danielpour combines texts from Jewish, Christian and Persian (Arabic) sources in his oratorio for peace. By doing so, he shows the parallels and common ground between the three major religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Muslim -- currently at war with each other in the Middle East. Unlike Bernstein's "Requiem Mass," Danielpour never gets preachy. He lets the inherent beauty of the poetic texts, supported by his music, speak for itself. The work is tonal and quite easy to follow -- which I suspect was Danielpour's intention. This isn't an esoteric work for the cognoscente, but rather a work that can be heard and enjoyed by a much wider audience. If you enjoy "modern" composers such as Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, or Michael Tippett, then you should find much to like in Daneilpour's composition. Not that he sounds like any of those composers, but Danielpour seems to be coming from the same place. In the liner notes Danielpour talks about reconnecting with his Persian musical heritage, and several parts of the score reflect that, adding a verve and excitement not found in works sticking to just Western traditions. Hila Plitmann's in fine form, letting her clear soprano voice float lightly above the orchestra in her solos. The overall performance by the Pacific Chorale, Pacific Symphony and conductor Carl St. Clair benefit from their close working relationship with the composer. This may be a world-premier recording, but the ensemble performs it as if it were a work they had been playing for years."Report Abuse
DanielpourApril 2, 2014By Due Fuss See All My Reviews"Danielpour has never been a favorite composer of mine. This is more a question of taste and aesthetics than any judgment on his skills as a composer, which are quite strong. Here he presents a powerful oratorio on that seemingly unattainable goal, peace. I appreciate the sentiment. Danielpour has selected excellent and compelling texts, such as those by Rumi, as well as biblical texts in Aramaic. The music wide-ranging with turbulent outbursts, and more contemplative moments as well. The recording is excellent, as is the performance by the lovely Hila Piltmann. I'll have to listen to some of Danielpour's other music again."Report Abuse