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Leon Kirchner: Orchestral Works / Kirchner, Mitropoulos, Hoagland

Kirchner / Nypso / Mitropoulos
Release Date: 06/14/2011 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1275   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Leon Kirchner
Performer:  Diana HoaglandLeon Kirchner
Conductor:  Leon KirchnerDimitri Mitropoulos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Former Harvard Chamber OrchestraColumbia Chamber EnsembleNew York Philharmonic Society Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KIRCHNER Music for Orchestra 1. Lily. 2 Piano Concerto No 1 Leon Kirchner, 1 cond 3 (pn); Harvard CO; 2 Diana Hoagland (sop); 2 various performers; 3 Dmitri Mitropoulos, cond; New York P Read more ALBANY TROY1275 (64:15)

The 1969 Music for Orchestra of Leon Kirchner is presented here in commercial release for the first time. The performances of the Piano Concerto and Lily can also be found on an excellent two-disc omnibus of Kirchner’s music from Music and Arts (rereleased by ArkivMusic). The great, late American composer has too few recordings as it is, so this creates a dilemma. The two-disc set, which covers a broad range of Kirchner’s career, is a perfect introduction to his music. But it [the Music & Arts set] does not include the pithy, pungent, and superbly constructed Music for Orchestra , and fans of this classic American master, myself included, will want it all. [This release does contain the piece. ed.]

The recording of the Piano Concerto has been rereleased several times since it was first issued in 1956 on Epic (including the aforementioned Music and Arts version), thus earning it the designation “historical.” Mitroupoulos learned the score very quickly, but this solid, assured performance displays no signs of reticence. The conductor offers a firm, steady pulse, but it is the composer at the keyboard who gives this music shape and personality. It sounds like a composer-as-soloist-driven work, with a fierce personality and high energy. The music is not without original touches and even quirks, but it is essentially a three-movement work in the early to mid 20th-century neoclassical manner of Bartók, Prokofiev, Barber, and others. I don’t understand why this piece has not been championed by a contemporary pianist. With its high spirits and brilliantly constructed orchestral score, it would make for a great live concert experience.

Lily is a chamber version of an extract from the opera of the same name, one of Kirchner’s most ambitious projects. It is based on Saul Bellow’s 1959 novel Henderson the Rain King . Apparently, the 1977 debut by the New York City Opera was something of a train wreck, and it has not been revived. This should be remedied soon, because on the basis of this performance, it sounds fascinating: lyrical and even witty, and broadly dramatic. It is also beautifully written, with a Stravinsky-like precision in the orchestra, and the inclusion of uniquely expressive electronic and taped elements, which he also used to similar effect in the String Quartet No. 3 from 10 years earlier, and which were a particular headache for the NYC Opera producers. I propose that New York can redeem itself with a concert version of Lily at the Philharmonic. Alan Gilbert, are you listening?

The performances here are excellent, as is the sound, even the vintage Piano Concerto recording. Kirchner himself participates in all three pieces, as pianist, conductor, and in Lily , as a narrator. Soprano Diana Hoagland, who worked closely with the composer to create the title role in Lily , delivers a brave performance, with the theatrical oomph of a Broadway chanteuse combined with the elegance and beauty of tone of a Mozart soprano. In all, a powerful and important release.

FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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Works on This Recording

Music for Orchestra by Leon Kirchner
Conductor:  Leon Kirchner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Former Harvard Chamber Orchestra
Lily by Leon Kirchner
Performer:  Diana Hoagland (Soprano)
Conductor:  Leon Kirchner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Chamber Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1973-1976; USA 
Ensemble includes: James Buswell, violin, Nobuko Imai, viola, Laurence Lesser, cello, Paul Dunkel, flute, Richard Stoltzman, clarinet, Allan Vogel, oboe, Alexander Heller, bassoon, Robert Routch, horn, Allen Beard, percussion, Lorin Hollander, celeste.  
Concerto for Piano no 1 by Leon Kirchner
Performer:  Leon Kirchner (Piano)
Conductor:  Dimitri Mitropoulos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic Society Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; USA 

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