DENLER: “Portraits of Colorado” = An American Symphony No. 1; Six Variations for Violin and Piano – The Colorado Sym. and Chorus/ Scott O’Neil – Fresh (from Reference Recordings) FR-706 HDCD-encoded,  [9/24/13] (Distr. by Allegro) 44:03  ****:

Portraits of Colorado is a new composition by Charles Denler on Reference Recordings Fresh label. The ten movement Symphony Number 1 was inspired by Denler’s view of the Rocky Mountains from his Colorado home. It’s an ambitious work for orchestra and chorus, and when listening, it sounded a bit like a soundtrack for a movie or an IMAX documentary. As a result, it wasn’t too surprising that Denler has written for film and TV. That’s not a knock, it’s just that the music has that kind of sound.

The ten short movements were also a bit surprising. In the liner notes, Denler states that young people are accustomed to playlists and shorter pieces of music, so he obliges with ten short movements. I think he might be selling serious music lovers who are young a bit short, but he’s the composer and he can construct his symphony any way he wants.

The music itself is quite listenable. There are certainly some references to ‘Americana’ and some ‘Coplandesque’ flourishes, but the symphony is a good listen.  The performance by the Colorado Symphony and Chorus conducted by Scott O’Neil is a fine one, and the HDCD recording is beyond criticism. There is a stable image of the orchestra, nice rendering of hall ambiance, and a wide dynamic range, owing in part to the HDCD format, which my Oppo BDP-103 can decode.

The disc finishes with Denler’s Six Variations for Violin and Piano are based on themes from the Symphony. These are also well-recorded by closer in microphones, and the sound is resonant and full bodied.  The music in the disc was influenced by American painter Jerry Malzahn, and examples are showcased in the liner notes.

The CD as a whole is a worthwhile listen. There’s nothing deep here, just evocative music well-played and well-recorded. All in all, 44 minutes well spent.

—Mel Martin