JoAnn Falletta / London Symphony Orchestra

Jack Gallagher: Symphony No. 2 'Ascendent'; Quiet Reflections

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Composer Jack Gallagher has produced a pair of symphonies and a body of substantial orchestral works -- an uncommon output for a 21st-century American composer not affiliated with a major symphony orchestra. In that sense, Gallagher's Symphony No. 2 ("Ascendant"), composed between 2010 and 2013, is a welcome novelty in the contemporary music landscape even as it is an example of a traditional form. The subtitle accurately conveys a sweeping, even heroic quality with a notable lack of sentiment. Gallagher's symphonic language here has elements of Copland and Stravinsky, but is unmistakably of a more modern era than either of those. The work is full of brilliant brass and wind writing, alternating with quieter episodes and put together into simple but effective arch and basic sonata shapes. The writing is virtuosic enough to require a top-notch ensemble, and the London Symphony excels here, likely because of the presence of American conductor JoAnn Falletta, a specialist in just this sort of thing. The symphony builds and maintains stretches of considerable excitement, and it would be ideal for orchestras trying to program contemporary works with audience appeal. The curtain is rung down by the accurately named Quiet Reflections (1996). Naxos engineers, working in London's Blackheath Concert Halls, deliver unusually detailed sound.

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