Michael Ludwig / JoAnn Falletta / Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

Corigliano: Violin Concerto "The Red Violin"; Phantasmagoria

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American composer John Corigliano pleases crowds with his accessible orchestral scores, but neo-Romantic is not quite the right word for him. Corigliano's music is historically oriented rather than nostalgic, and in his capacity to draw a variety of resonances from styles and motifs of the past he might almost be thought of as an American Dmitry Shostakovich. This release features two compositions drawn from dramatic presentations, and both of them, expertly adapted to a purely orchestral format, show every sign of becoming repertory standards. Both allow the members of a large orchestra to display their talents, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Michael Ludwig, quite nicely recorded in the orchestra's own Kleinhans Music Hall, step up to the occasion with technically spot-on yet sweeping performances under conductor JoAnn Falletta. Hear the banging effect executed by the violins in the fourth movement of the Violin Concerto "The Red Violin" (track 5), one of Corigliano's most-performed works in its various guises. The concerto is an expansion of the Chaconne for violin and orchestra, which in turn distilled elements from Corigliano's score for the film of the same name. The opening chaconne is polyphonic in the sense in which literary critics employ the word, with distinct narratives set in different historical eras (through which the violin itself travels in the film) occurring sequentially. Phantasmagoria is adapted from Corigliano's opera Ghosts of Versailles; it contains various musical quotations, and the orchestra sets the right dreamlike mood to bring out the effect of these. There are other choices for these contemporary American classics, but this is a good one, with the elusive quality of rediscovering the excitement of symphonic music that has endeared Corigliano to audiences in the U.S. and beyond.

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