Thomas Cunningham

George Andoniadis: Lincoln - A Poetic Opera

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Lincoln: A Poetic Opera by New York-based composer George Andoniadis, with a text compiled by the composer from texts by Lincoln, the Bible, Walt Whitman, and other Civil War documents, seems closer to an oratorio than an opera, structured more like a ruminative exploration of Lincoln's passions than a traditional dramatic narrative. The impression is reinforced by the prominent use of chorale-like sections that recall Bach's use of the chorus in his Passions. It's easy to imagine the piece as a concert work, but there is little in its music or structure to suggest anything operatic. The tone is consistently somber, as is appropriate for a memorial to a great man's tragic life, and the elegiac music generally moves at a slow tempo. Andoniadis' tonal idiom, gentle lyricism, pastel harmonies, subdued orchestration, and mood of quiet reverence may lack drama or a strong sense of narrative movement, but the music is effectively evocative. The work receives an earnest and committed performance by tenor Timothy Bentch, soprano Elizabeth Racheva, and the Manhattan Choral Ensemble and Orchestra, led by Thomas Cunningham. The sound of the live 2009 recording is clear and balanced, but there is a fair amount of ambient noise.

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