Jason Vieaux / Giancarlo Guerrero / Nashville Symphony

Jonathan Leshnoff: Symphony No. 4 "Heichalos"; Guitar Concerto; Starburst

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The Nashville Symphony Orchestra under Giancarlo Guerrero, has emerged as an important force in commissioning, and performing contemporary music, generally of the broadly appealing sort, at its modern Schermerhorn Symphony Center (which again shows its acoustic strengths here). This collection of works by Jonathan Leshnoff fits its modus operandi perfectly; all three of the works here receive their world premieres. The Symphony No. 4 "Heichalos" has an explicitly Jewish background, not only in the Jewish mystical reference of its subtitle, but also in its dedication to the "Violins of Hope," a set of instruments played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. This is certainly a powerful and concrete testimony to that calamity, and the instruments are used here; you hear them most clearly in the Mahler-like slow passages of the second movement. It is unlikely, though, that you would guess the subject matter from a dispassionate hearing of the music; Leshnoff avoids even the Jewish references of Bloch in favor of a general tonal style, somewhat resembling Khachaturian. Stronger is the Guitar Concerto, where Leshnoff unapologetically sets out to write a crowd-pleaser in the vein of Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, but ends up with something wholly original, broadening Rodrigo's structures, and deepening the tonality a bit. Guitarist Jason Vieaux excels with clean, clear lines here. The brief finale, Starburst, has been heard instead as a curtain-raiser from various orchestras; it's a peppy, well-constructed piece that works well in either capacity, and any boost it gets from this recording is desirable. An enjoyable outing from Guerrero and his "band" from Music City.

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