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Uptown Downtown: Urban Panorama In Six Movements

Rijnvos / Netherlands Radio Po / Antunes
Release Date: 10/09/2012 
Label:  Challenge   Catalog #: 72538  
Composer:  Richard Rijnvos
Performer:  John Snijders
Conductor:  Celso Antunes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Chamber PhilharmonicNetherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RIJNVOS Uptown/Downtown Celso Antunes, cond; Netherlands RPO; John Snijders (pn) CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC2538 (65: 38)

In the notes for this CD, the composer discusses his distrust for the concept of musical style. “Style is never a point of departure for my creative process. Style is actually the unexpected final destination.” Clearly, Richard Rijnvos, a highly skilled Dutch composer, does not want to be pigeonholed. And yet this music, consisting of two sets of three tableaux, all inspired by New York City, Read more is, in the vernacular sense, very stylish . Rijnvos himself openly acknowledges the influence of American music, and absorbs that sensibility so well that it would be easy to mistake this wily European for a Yank. The first grouping, entitled NYConcerto , is scored for piano soloist and a pared down orchestra. The overall effect is jazzy, like a score from an edgy noir film with a dark urban setting. There are quotes from Gershwin ( Rhapsody in Blue ) and Ives ( Central Park in the Dark ), and plenty of swinging syncopation. As the composer puts it, “running across Broadway, I bumped into Thelonious Monk. It didn’t hurt a bit.” Indeed, there is a seamlessness to Rijnvos’s pastiche that is quite impressive.

The second grouping is called Manhattan Square Dances . Here, the larger ensemble is skewed toward a dark coloration, with the brooding influence of Ives still very much present. Ultimately, I found the bleakness of the music somewhat relentless, and although New York can certainly be an intimidating place, it is also overflowing with joy and beauty, and little of those qualities are conveyed here. As someone who, with my wife, failed at ballroom dancing classes (the instructor finally declared that we had invented a new step), I may not be the best judge, but I did not find this music especially danceable. I can admire the fine craft of Rijnvos in this work, but found the NYConcerto more accessible.

The performances by this superb ensemble are excellent; agile and full-throated, and John Snijders brings high energy and dramatic smarts to his piano part in NYConcerto. This is a lively, at times boisterous outing overall, recommended especially to those who drink their coffee black.

FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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Works on This Recording

NY Concerto by Richard Rijnvos
Performer:  John Snijders (Piano)
Conductor:  Celso Antunes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic
Written: 2008 
Manhattan Square Dances by Richard Rijnvos
Conductor:  Celso Antunes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 2008 

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