Thursday, May 14, 2015

John Corigliano: Symphony #1: an orchestral "Normal Heart"

There is a tendency for many modern cyclic works to be sparing with gratuitous emotion, even when dealing with a sensitive matter like AIDS.
That is the case of the Symphony #1 (nominally in A Minor) by John Corigliano (40 minutes), as recorded on a CD for Erato in 1991 by Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony. The work has a solo piano part played by Stephen Hough, and a cello solo played by John Sharp.

The first movement is called an “Apologue”, subtitled “Of Rage and Remembrance”, recalling the anger at the heart of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, as in “The Normal Heart”.  Rather than the Sonata, the composer says it is in ABA form. “Ferocity” and dissonance, even in the strings, dominate the outer sections, a kind of lyricism in the middle.  The second movement is a wild tarantella. The third movement, titled “Chaconne: Giulio’s Song”, has the cello solo and emphasizes the double basses, and works up to the biggest climax in the work. The last movement is a brief quiet and acquiescent epilogue.   

Update: Dec. 1, 2017

Here is a YouTube video showing the AIDS Quilt in 1989.  I remember visiting it and finding the piece for Rodney Ayers, whom I had known in Dallas.

Richard Sincere republished a review from Metro Herald of a 1995 NSO performance here

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