Christopher Rouse

0 of 5 stars

Der gerettete Alberich
Violin Concerto

Evelyn Glennie (percussion)

Cho-Liang Lin (violin)

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Leif Segerstam

Recorded in the Finlandia Hall, Helsinki – November 2001 (Violin Concerto), June 2003 (Rapture) and September 2003

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: August 2004
CD No: ONDINE ODE 1016-2
Duration: 64 minutes

American composer Christopher Rouse (born 1949) has provided some of the most pulsating music of recent years. His scores mirror being alive, and his tendency is to exploit the darker side of existence. The loud, aggressive aspects of Rouse’s creations is often countered by heartfelt lyricism and a structured approach to composition.

In truth, the percussion concerto Der gerettete Alberich is not one of Rouse’s best pieces, although this fantasy based on what might have happened to Alberich after he disappeared out of Wagner’s Ring cycle certainly contains some striking narrative, if not enough to sustain 27 minutes. Rouse knits quotes from and allusions to Wagner with typical skill into the whole. This demonstrative performance, one rather manipulatively recorded, and not balanced ideally, is atmospheric and propulsive. (This is Evelyn Glennie’s second recording in fact. She taped it for RCA a few years ago with Leonard Slatkin and the Philharmonia Orchestra, but the CD’s other items were never recorded…)

The other Rouse works here are among his finest. Rapture (written for the Pittsburgh Symphony and Mariss Jansons) initially evokes the exquisite pastoralism of ‘earlier’ American music, and its growth to an ecstatic culmination is thrilling and reminds of William Schuman’s sense of ceremony.

The multi-faceted Violin Concerto is the oldest music here, from 1991. It is belatedly given its first recording by its original soloist in a seasoned and convinced account with some precise support from the orchestra. Contrasts again abound: from fragility to orchestral tsunamis; from rocking sea-song (the first movement is called ‘Barcarola’) to frenzied scherzo; from impassioned lyricism to the devilish rapidity of the second movement ‘Toccata’.

The recording disappoints – somewhat – a little glaring in climaxes, somewhat bass-light, and a little unnatural in perspective and dynamics. But the radiance and tumult of Rapture and the intimate and headlong Violin Concerto are not to be denied their impact.

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