Seiji Ozawa

Olly Wilson: Sinfonia: John Harbison: Symphony No. 1

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This CD presents two works commissioned by the Boston Symphony for its centennial in 1984, conducted here by Seiji Osawa who premiered both pieces. Olly Wilson's "Sinfonia" is in three contrasting movements: the first movement in Moderato tempo has a simple two-note descending major seventh motive introduced by pizzicato strings. The composer speaks of a development in "waves" for this movement, an amassing of variations that continues until interrupted by a new idea. The music is anxious, angular and intense even when quiet. A lovely clarinet solo accompanied by a rain stick ends the movement in a reflective mood. The second movement is a Largo elegy in memory of the composer's father and a conductor friend. This sombre movement is thus built from two compelling melodies and some magnificent chords connected by eerie sliding tones. The third movement Allegro opens with bitter dissonances and a tortured angular melody but this soon transforms into a jazzily accented big band dance. Harbison's "Symphony No. 1" (1980-84) is an energetic and Americana symphony in four movements that began with a dream vision. The composer saw friends playing metallic instruments in a room used as a bar during intermissions at the Symphony Hall in Boston. The first movement, "Drammatico" features a pulse of strong, steely accents and contrasting sweeping and happy melodies. The brief "Allegro sfumato", flies along with ascending and descending archs. "Paessagio: andante" generates a troubled mood that intensifies into a rich melodic texture until becoming violently expressive. The fourth movement, "Tempo giusto", begins with a cycling figure of high propulsive energy, and then the music takes on the sound of big band jazz and Latino rhythms that becomes a frenzy.

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