MICHAEL KURTH (b.1971): Everything Lasts Forever, A Thousand Words, May Cause Dizziness, Miserere for Mezzo-Soprano, Chorus and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 04U063
Label: ASO Media
Description: An Atlanta staple and long-time member of the ASO, Kurth the composer is adept at introducing a popular, urban vibe into concert music of uncompromising sophistication. A Thousand Words, a symphony in all but name, consists of four tone pictures (worth 1000 words each, presumably). This is deliberately accessible contemporary music at its very best; cinematically vivid and programmatic enough to carry the audience along with it, but without being patronizing, tonal but not conservative and with steadily pulsing rhythms. "Above" is a sunrise, depicted in very John Luther Adams terms; a crescendo of slowly overlapping planes of chords. "Beneath" was inspired by looming basalt cliffs in Iceland and the man-made canyons of the abandoned Sloss Furnaces in Alabama, in a huge, sinister pulsating mechanism that serves as the work's scherzo. The slow movement, "Within" begins uncertainly, but soon an eloquent melody establishes itself and swells to a powerfully determined, optimistic conclusion. The finale, "Beyond" reaches for the sky and the stars, borne aloft by pounding, propulsive post-minimalism. Everything Lasts Forever was inspired by street art in Atlanta's historic, now trendy, Cabbagetown district. Its bold, in-your-face colors and rhythms match those of urban mural art. Miserere is a "personal expression of conviction, contrition, and self-admonition" reflecting what the composer sees as the "mysterious beauty and the tragic bleakness of the modern faithscape". Thus a work of serious intent and expression, but using an unexpectedly vernacular idiom. When welcoming Martín Palmeri's tango-inflected Magnificat (07T071), we presciently speculated that " ... it is harder to imagine, say a Requiem or Miserere in this style, though it might be interesting to be proven wrong." No tangos here, but this work, based on persistent 'grooves' (apparently the new technical term for a funky ostinato) and featuring a lot of hand-played drums and an electric keyboard, will appeal to admirers of that work, African Sanctus, Misa criolla, or for that matter, Bernstein's Mass. The texts are from the Psalms and the book of Lamentations, with two bitterly questioning poems by Jesse Breite on the subjects of hypocrisy and doubt that elaborate on themes from the New Testament. Kelley O’Connor (mezzo), Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Chorus, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; Robert Spano.