Music Review: NSO devotes its latest CD to the music of Richard Danielpour

The Nashville Symphony has finally released its CD of composer Richard Danielpour’s music (Naxos), and my review is published in this week’s Nashville Scene. Music director Giancarlo Guerrero and his players recorded three of Danielpour’s works, the most ambitious of which is Darkness in the Ancient Valley, a symphony in five movements that sets the verse of the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi to music.

A first generation American, Danielpour’s ancestors were Persian Jews who traced their lineage back to the biblical Esther. He wrote Darkness in the Ancient Valley in response to the Iranian government’s antigovernment crackdown in 2009. Not surprisingly, it’s some of his most effective music.

559188 bk Harbison USThe different movements in this piece all have quasi-liturgical headings — such as “Lamentation,” “Desecration” and “Benediction.” All of the music is evocative, since Danielpour infused the score with choice Persian modes and rhythms. Guerrero and the NSO give the music a dramatic reading, playing with power, precision and heat-felt emotion. Soprano soloist Hila Plitmann sings with angelic purity and sincerity.

The CD also includes: A Woman’s Life, a symphonic song cycle that sets Maya Angelou’s poetry to music – soprano Angela Brown gives intimate, sensitive performances; and Lacrimae Beati, which found its inspiration in the “Lacrimosa” from Mozart’s Requiem.

The all-Danielpour CD – which consists entirely of world-premiere recordings – is the latest in a series of NSO recordings that focus on contemporary American music. The NSO has won seven Grammy Awards for these recordings so far. The orchestra no doubt has high hopes for this recording.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.