STEVEN STUCKY (b.1949): August 4, 1964 for Chorus and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 07O086
Label: DSO Live
Description: Stucky's dramatic cantata refers to a pivotal date during LBJ's presidency, when the bodies of three missing civil rights workers in Mississippi were discovered, and the Gulf of Tonkin incident precipitated America into the Vietnam War. Gene Scheer's libretto uses the coincidence of these events' simultaneity to illuminate the life and career of a complex, flawed, heroic and tragic president. Stucky, although by his own account deliberately avoiding direct comparison with Britten's War Requiem, reminds us of that great work in several respects; the 'foreground' characters sung by soloists (in this case, playing named historical figures) and choral backdrop (a kind of Greek chorus rather than setting a liturgical context). Historical accounts provide the dramatic arc of the piece, but as in the Britten, interpolated material and changes in perspective are reflected in music that also shifts focus. Stucky's vocabulary is not so far from Britten's either; very tonal, with similar harmonic richness and attention paid to supple, eloquent vocal lines; certain fanfare-like gestures and their distant reflections, and some turns of melody may also seem familiar. The more recent example of John Adams' post-minimalist tonality and propulsiveness can also be detected intermittently. Thus the work is an effective drama, cast in entirely accessible, emotionally resonant musical terms (a centrally placed elegy for orchestra alone is an especially powerful high point of the piece's dramatic contour). Dallas Symphony Chorus and Orchestra; Jaap van Zweden.