Ancient Voices – RICHARD DANIELPOUR Works – Nashville Sym. /Giancarlo Guerrero – Naxos

Ancient Voices – RICHARD DANIELPOUR Works – Nashville Sym. /Giancarlo Guerrero; Hila Plitmann, sop./ Pacific Chorale /John Alexander;  Pacific Sym. /Carl St. Clair – Naxos 8.578311-12 – 1:26:27 (2 CDs) (6/9/15) ****:

Stirring contemporary music with a middle-eastern theme.

Composer Richard Danielpour refers to himself as “an American composer with a Middle Eastern memory”. This two-disc set from Naxos contains two compelling works by Danielpour. Darkness in the Ancient Valley, a symphony in five movements inspired by recent events in Iran, utilizes a wide range of Persian folk-melodies and Sufi rhythms. Toward a Season of Peace is an oratorio which explores violence and war in the name of religion, using the season of spring as a metaphor for change and transformation towards songs of peace through forgiveness.

Both works feature the Pacific Chorale and soprano Hila Plitmann, The compositions are ambitious works, and very emotionally involving. Danielpour is clearly a major voice in contemporary composition. He is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music and the Curtis Institute. He has appeared with major orchestras all over the world, and has been championed by artists like Yo Yo Ma, Jessye Norman and many others.

The works, challenging as they are, are played flawlessly by The Nashville and Pacific Symphonies under the batons of Giancarlo Guerrero and Carl St. Clair respectively. Ms. Plitmann is also a major asset. Darkness in the Ancient Valley is based on a 13th century poem, while Toward A season of Peace takes its inspiration from a variety of middle eastern texts including the Old Testament and some Arabic sources.

These are stunning works to listen to, with a recording to match. It’s a CD rather than a high resolution offering, but the dynamics are full, the stereo image is precise, the bass is deep and the high frequencies don’t disappoint.

Both discs are a musical excursion worth taking. The compositions are emotional, and epic in quality. Highly recommended for audiophiles and those of us who love contemporary music.

—Mel Martin

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