Hila Plitmann / Carl St. Clair

Richard Danielpour: Toward a Season of Peace

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The world-premiere recording of Richard Danielpour's Toward a Season of Peace offers a dynamic performance that impresses with its immense forces and energetic playing and compels an emotional response with its pacifist sentiments and beautiful lyricism. Danielpour's style is instantly accessible by virtue of its rich tonality and poignant melodies, and the flow of the music gives his oratorio a traditional appeal, with the right balance of dramatic tension and comforting release. The setting of excerpts from the Masoretic text of the Bible, the Persian verses of Rumi (in an English translation), and an Arabic poem by Al Mutanabbi brings languages into a convergence somewhat reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein's mixing of Latin, English, and Hebrew in his Mass (1971), and the ecumenical nature of Toward a Season of Peace also brings that theater piece to mind. Unlike Bernstein, and to Danielpour's credit, he doesn't mingle elements of popular music with his neo-Romantic choruses, and he avoids the trendiness that dates Mass, aiming instead for a more universal and timeless prayer for peace. At many points, the mystical choruses of Vaughan Williams and Holst spring to mind, and feel stronger than any modern influence. Perhaps this oratorio is more inspirational than motivational, and it may join other works earnestly dedicated to world peace that have fallen by the wayside, but the performers aren't to blame if that happens. Soprano Hila Plitmann, the Pacific Chorale, and the Pacific Symphony, conducted by Carl St. Clair, give a lovely and reverent performance that is gorgeous in its harmonies and textures, and ultimately moving because of its simplicity and directness.

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