Alan Gilbert / Sharon Bezaly

Christopher Rouse: Flute Concerto; Symphony No. 2; Rapture

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The music of American composer Christopher Rouse has expanded its reach beyond American audiences in search of neo-Romantic fare; here an American conductor, Alan Gilbert, takes it to a venerable European ensemble, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra with spectacular results. It is Rouse's handling of the orchestra that makes his music so stirring, and it's hard to imagine a program and performance that displays his strengths better than this one does. The release also fits into the series of what might be called New Virtuosity recordings by Swedish label BIS, with Israeli-Swedish flutist Sharon Bezaly delivering a splendid performance in Rouse's Flute Concerto (1993). In the outer movements the piece has a lot of very quick turns in an idiom slightly flavored by Irish folk music, a tinge that Bezaly, perhaps unexpectedly, absolutely nails. The central movement of the concerto is an extended lament, originally a response to a murder among teens in Britain, and the Symphony No. 2, written around the same time, has a similarly serious tone, with a Mahlerian dimension in the orchestration. The collaboration of orchestra, conductor, and engineer in bringing to light the details of this complex score is riveting. The final Rapture, a single-movement work from the year 2000, transcends the tensions of the previous music; its long lines, too, are masterfully rendered here. There are plenty of good American recordings of Rouse, but this one merits strong consideration as a place to start with either this composer or the new conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Informative booklet notes, mostly by Rouse himself, are in English, German, and French.

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