Martin West / San Francisco Ballet Orchestra

C.F. Kip Winger: Conversations with Nijinsky; Ghosts; A Parting Grace

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If the name Kip Winger sounds familiar, that may be because he has had a long career in rock: he started out in the band of shock rocker Alice Cooper and worked with such luminaries as Bob Dylan and Roger Daltrey along the way to forming his own glam metal band, Winger. He became interested in ballet as a teen and took up dance as an adjunct to martial arts. That led to an interest in classical composition, which he studied for many years, most recently with Richard Danielpour, while living and working in Nashville. The three compositions recorded here represent his formal classical debut, issued under the compromise name C.F. Kip Winger. (His actual initials are C.F.) If you don't enjoy rock musicians' forays into classical music you may be skeptical about this, but be advised that Winger has thought the project through to a greater degree than most, and it shows in this Grammy-nominated project. The clearest indication of Winger's commitment is Conversations with Nijinsky, the largest work on the album and one that grew out of extensive reading about the great dancer on the composer's part. The idea of trying to distill Nijinsky's art down to a set of fairly short symphonic movements is both commendably original and quite challenging, and Winger succeeds impressively: the work is a set of musical ballet tropes that you can't quite place but that hang together nicely. The work merits the blurb it has earned from none other than Dame Tamara Nijinsky, Vaslav Nijinsky's daughter, who has no need at this point to be doing favors for anybody. The other two works, one of them inspired by an abandoned building in Nashville and also oriented toward dance, are not quite as specific and persuasive, but both are attractive works in a now common neo-Romantic idiom. The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra under Martin West adds something to this project, but it is also to be hoped that the work earns new performances by non-ballet-affiliated symphony orchestras. Recommended.

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