Much of British composer Michael Nyman's output has been in the genres of opera and film score; the music for Gattaca is his. He has fused a minimalist language with essentially cinematic gestures in a way that's both approachable and quite compact. As he approached his eighth decade, Nyman announced plans for a series of 17 (or more) abstract symphonies; the movements of the pair here are labeled only with metronome indications. In this he follows Philip Glass, whose music his own somewhat resembles. You may be puzzled by the fact that the Symphony No. 5 here was completed a year before the lower-numbered Symphony No. 2, but Nyman seems to have worked on groups of the symphonies at more or less the same time. In these two works, Nyman's intention seems to be to explore systematically the collection of gestures he has used in more referential music, working out the implications of each in terms of a movement structure of moderate length. There is an overall mood (the Symphony No. 5 is the darker of the pair), but the main interest is in the individual movements. Nyman's thematic material retains its stickiness, and even in the intrinsically ambitious symphony genre he remains something of a crossover minimalist, one whose tunes remain in your head even if you can't quite whistle them for the most part. His decision to write symphonies may have seemed surprising, but these could well enter the repertory. The ambitiously named World Orchestra under Josep Vicent delivers the crisp yet not remote performances that are needed here.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Symphony No. 5|
|Symphony No. 2|