Tobias Picker: Symphony No. 2 "Aussohnung"; String Quartet No. 1 "New Memories"

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Tobias Picker is one of only a few contemporary composers to compose true symphonies without taking shortcuts or rationalizing loose forms as symphonic through an "anything goes" attitude. His carefully structured Symphony No. 2, "Aussöhnung," is in seven contrasting movements that follow a clear trajectory from dynamic conflict to sublime resolution in the vocal finale. Picker's sophisticated use of tonality and profound understanding of development greatly contribute to this work's formal success, but his ability to write genuine Allegro movements sets him apart from the crowd of composers who suppose any long, somber Adagio would qualify as a symphony. The Houston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sergiu Comissiona, is committed and energetic, and soprano Leona Mitchell is ravishing in the closing song, evoking the spirit of Mahler quite poignantly. Picker's String Quartet No. 1, "New Memories," also succeeds because of its balance of fast and slow music, and this work in six movements and a coda satisfies the need for propulsion and dynamism as well as for lyricism and reflection. The Mendelssohn String Quartet's inspired and elevated performance persuades one that this work is a modern masterpiece and makes it a highly enjoyable experience. The sound quality is decent in the symphony, but excellent in the quartet.

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