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IN BRIEF

CLASSICAL

RICHARD DANIELPOUR, Concerto for Orchestra and "Anima Mundi" performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under David Zinman (SONY-SK-62822); YO-YO MA Premieres, works for Cello and Orchestra by Richard Danielpour, Leon Kirchner and Christopher Rouse performed by Ma and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Zinman (SONY-SK-66299). There is nothing sudden about the emergence of first-rate and vehemently accessible middle-aged composers out of the ashes of modernism, but taken as a worldwide phenomenon it is indicative of immense sudden vigor in music that had been presumed moribund. The Western classical tradition not only lives but flourishes. American composer Richard Danielpour, 41, has emerged as one of the most memorable figures we have. His music is passionate, lyrical, richly colored, rhythmically explosive ("when I was an adolescent, I listened to an enormous amount of black popular music -- Aretha Franklin, James Brown," he says by way of explanation) and brilliantly eclectic. And, in David Zinman, he has found as important a conductor/advocate as a composer could have these days. It wouldn't take much to hear echoes of Bloch's "Schelomo" in his 1994 Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, or Bartok in his Concerto for Orchestra, but then, they're so mixed up with Stravinsky, Messiaen, Copland, Bernstein, Britten, Shostakovich and who knows what else that he could almost be a figurehead in what might be called nostalgic modernism: music that is unashamedly public and communicative and terminally reluctant to bore people. Rhetoric, when it's so eloquent, is more than honorable -- and that's what his music is. On the same disc, Ma performs Leon Kirchner's less gripping "Music for Cello and Orchestra" and the powerful and somber Violincello concerto of Christopher Rouse, a 48-year-old American composer who seems as much a part of post-postmodernism as Danielpour. Ma and the Philadelphia Orchestra are marvelous throughout. Danielpour's showcase disc is the pairing of his 1996 Concerto for Orchestra -- subtitled "Zoroastrian Riddles" after a strange carnival season pastime of Mozart's -- and his 1995 ballet "Anima Mundi." As fine as the Pittsburgh Orchestra is, it's hard not to wish that Zinman had the Philadelphia Orchestra here, too. But it's remarkable music, full of melodic yearnings, blood-boiling dissonance, ferocious brass chorales and blazing brilliance in the instrumental scoring. Rating for both:****

-- Jeff Simon
GYORGI LIGETI Edition Volume 2: A Cappella Choral Works performed by London Sinfonietta under Terry Edwards (SONY-SK-62305); Volume 4: Vocal Works performed by the King's Singers and Philharmonia Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen (SONY-SK-62311); Volume 5: Mechanical Music (SONY-SK-62310); Volume 6: Keyboard Works (SONY-SK-62307). There are people who have been saying for many years now that the giant of European composers between Messiaen and the Eastern European triumvirate of Gorecki, Part and Penderecki (all born within two years of each other) is Hungarian Gyorgi Ligeti -- and that if the smoke ever cleared out from Berio, Boulez, Stockhausen and Xenakis, it would be more than obvious. That smoke-clearing is what the extraordinary Ligeti edition is now in the process of doing. The variety of music on these discs is mind-boggling. Almost all of it is gripping or, at least, engaging. He is far more than the magnificent proto-electronic creator of those tragic and static sonic clouds like the Requiem, "Lontano," "Atmospheres" and "Lux Aeterna" (the latter included on Volume 2 of the series) whom most people discovered from the soundtrack of Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." He is the wildly playful avant-gardist whose "Poeme Symphonique" for 100 Metronomes (it's on Volume 5 but almost pointless on disc) is a hilarious Cageian gesture; and the composer of wonderfully Bartokian music of the '40s and '50s; and riotous music for barrel organ (again Volume 5) and the New Music masterworks "Adventures" and "Nouvelles Adventures" from what he calls "radically meaningless texts" (given wild performance on Volume 4). And all of this was accomplished in a life, perforce, of political dissidence. He is, at last report, interested in medieval and African music. Volumes 2 and 6 contain the most irresistibly Bartokian music. Rating:**** . Volume 5, for the mechanical works, is paradoxically, the most enigmatic as well as the most exhilarating. Rating*** 1/2 . But without question the most avant-garde and, therefore, varied (when it careens from "Nouvelles Adventures" to a 1989 setting of Holderlin and then works from the '40s and '50s) is Volume 4, devoted to Vocal Works with Orchestra. Rating:****

-- J.S.

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