Leshnoff: Symphony No. 3; Piano Concerto / Powell, Joyce Yang, Stern, Kansas City Symphony

Release Date: 11/20/2020
Catalog Number: FR-739SACD
Number of Discs: 1

Physical Format:

In Stock
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Reference Recordings proudly presents two new works from leading American composer Jonathan Leshnoff. Distinguished by The New York Times as “a leader of contemporary American lyricism,” Leshnoff is renowned for his music's striking harmonies, structural complexity, and powerful themes. These world premiere recordings showcase the Kansas City Symphony performing his third symphony, inspired by World War I letters home, with texts sung by baritone Stephen Powell. It is coupled with Leshnoff ’s new and exciting piano concerto, dedicated to and performed by pianist Joyce Yang. This is the eighth album in Reference Recordings’ series with Kansas City Symphony. Previous albums are Shakespeare’s Tempest; the GRAMMY® Award-winning Britten’s Orchestra, an Elgar/Vaughan Williams project, Miraculous Metamorphoses, an all-Saint-Saëns album featuring the magnificent Organ Symphony, an album of works from contemporary American composer Adam Schoenberg (nominated for two GRAMMY® Awards), and most recently Gustav Holst’s The Planets and The Perfect Fool. Two additional projects, featuring one-movement symphonies by Barber, Scriabin and Sibelius; and a live recording of works of Johannes Brahms, have been recorded and slated for future release.



Here are two of the Leshnoff’s most impressive works, and the Third Symphony in particular will be relished by those who admire such 20th-century composers as Vaughan Williams, Walton, and Copland. It is music of great authority (inspired by World War I letters home, with texts sung by baritone Stephen Powell), with an equal tempering of drama and beauty, strikingly performed by the Kansas City Symphony under Michael Stern.

– Classical CD Choice (Barry Forshaw)
Customer Reviews
Average Review:
5.0 1
Beautiful and inspiring
By: ArkivMusic Customer on June 21, 2021
Format: SACD
The horrors of the First World War were not lost on the artists who survived it. Works written immediately after to commemorate the event were generally quiet, contemplative pieces. The music focussed on the senseless loss of life and eschewed any hints of military glory. Daniel Leshnoff continues that tradition with his Third Symphony.

Written for the centennial of Armistice Day, Leshnoff gives voice to those who fought. He sets excerpts from letters written to loved ones at home. They don't talk about the glory of battle but share quiet, intimate moments in simple yet beautifully poetic language.

Leshnoff reverses the standard three-movement form (fast-slow-fast). The outer movements are slow, while the middle movement bristles with nervous energy. The baritone enters during the final movement, singing over long, lyrical passages.

It's a beautiful work, beautifully constructed. And a worthy memorial to those who served.

Leshnoff composed his piano concerto for Joyce Yang, who premieres the work on this release. Once again, Leshnoff breaks the rules (sort of) with a four rather than a three-movement concerto. Structurally, the work resembles a symphony. But it's definitely a concerto. The piano enters right at the beginning, an equal partner in the work as it unfolds.

Joyce Yang shines, as might be expected. This is music written for her and her performance brings out its best. The Kansas City Symphony, directed by Michael Stern also sounds fine, especially in the performance of the symphony. It's a nuanced work, and the ensemble delivers.

Reference released this as an SACD recording. If you're opting for a digital download, I recommend investing in the highest resolution possible. The symphony has long stretches at low volume levels. That resolution is essential to hear all the details in those quiet passages -- and those details are essential to understanding what Leshnoff is saying.