SILVER: Piano Concerto / Six Preludes (Alexander Paley/ Gintaras Rinkevicius/ Lithuania State Symphony Orchestra/ Peter Newble) (Naxos: 8.557015)
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Sheila Silver Piano Concerto Six preludes pour piano, d'apr?¿s po?¿mes deBaudelaireSheila Silver is an important and vital voice in Americanmusic today. She has written in a wide range of media, from solo instrumentalworks to large orchestral works, from opera to feature film scores. Her musicallanguage is a unique synthesis of the tonal and atonal worlds, coupled with arhythmic complexity which is both masterful and compelling. Again and again,audiences and critics praise her music as powerful and emotionally charged,accessible, and masterfully conceived. [\Silver speaks a musical language ofher own, one rich in sonority, lyrical intensity and poetic feeling" ChicagoTribune.] Bornin Seattle Washington in 1946, Sheila Silver began piano studies at the age offive. Upon receiving her Bachelorof Arts from the University of California at Berkeley (1968) she was awardedthe George Ladd Prix de Paris for two years' study in Europe, where she workedwith Erhard Karkoschka in Stuttgart and Gyorgy Ligeti in Berlin and Hamburg.She earned her doctorate from Brandeis University in 1976, where she studiedwith Arthur Berger, Harold Shapero and Seymour Shifrin. Her compositions havebeen commissioned and performed by numerous orchestras, chamber ensembles, andsoloists throughout the United States and Europe, and honours include aRadcliffe Institute Fellowship (1978), the Rome Prize (1979), and the AmericanAcademy and Institute of Arts and Letters Composer Award (1986). She has twicebeen the winner of the ISCM National Composers' Competition, and other awardsand commissions include those from the Rockefeller Foundation, the CamargoFoundation, MacDowell Colony, New York State Council of the Arts, the BarlowFoundation, Paul Fromm Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and theCary Trust. Sheila Silver's full length opera The Thief of Love, featured inNew York City Opera's 2000 Showcasing American Composers, was given its fullystaged world premi?¿re by the Stony Brook Opera in March 2001, and she iscollaborating with filmmaker John Feldman on a series of MusicVisions, unique"classical music videos" for one or two instruments, video, and tape track. She is Professor of Music at the StateUniversity of New York, Stony Brook, and her music is published by MMB Musicand Studio 4 Productions and is recorded on various labels. SheilaSilver's Piano Concerto, scored for full orchestra and piano, was composed between1993 and 1996 at the request of Alexander Paley. It was funded by the BarlowEndowment for Music Composition and commissioned by a consortium of fourorchestras, the American Composers Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony, theAnnapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. The worldpremi?¿re was given in March 1997 at Carnegie Hall by the American ComposersOrchestra with Paul Dunkel conducting, to a standing ovation. The secondperformance by the Richmond Symphony, conducted by George Manahan, was alsoenthusiastically received. About thePiano Concerto the composer writes:"Conceived as a symphony with piano solo, the Piano Concertodeals with the theme of struggle and transcendence. Each of the three movementshas different material, but the chant-like melody in the strings which opensthe entire concerto serves as a leitmotif, occurring at various momentsthroughout the piece. The image of the first movement is that of a young manmarching off to meet his fate, full of fear and courage, arrogance and naivete.It concludes with a marching tune - the immigrant fleeing to a better worldwith hope and determination. The second movement evokes the intimacy of prayerand the image of being "broken and crying." In ABA form, fragments of themarching-tune are heard in the middle section. The third movement opens with arecitative-like dialogue between piano and orchestra: "Master of the Universe"the man asks, "What are you doing to me? What is happening? Where do I go fromhere?" After this the "dance of life", a melody in the tradition of the Hasidicnigun, begins. It starts as a simple melody in the right hand of the piano castover the opening chant music and grows until the entire orchestra is dancingwildly." TheSix preludes pour piano, d'apr?¿s po?¿mes de Baudelaire, were written in 1990while Silver was in residence at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, asmall picturesque Mediterranean fishing-village nestled under the magnificentcliff, Cap Canaille. It was here that Silver and Paley met and their fruitfulcollaboration began. The Preludes were commissioned for the opening concert ofthe art exhibition: "Baudelaire: The Poet and his Painters," (Heckscher Museum,Huntington, New York, October 1993). Aboutthe Preludes Silver writes: "Thefirst prelude, La mer ?á Cassis, is inspired by Baudelaire's poem La musique, inwhich the poet's experience of listening to music is likened to a sail boatcarried by the wind on the sea - sometimes gentle, sometimes stormy. Thesecond prelude, La pendule, comes from R?¬ve parisien, in which the poetdescribes his dream of a city built of marble, metal and crystal, brilliant andsurreal. As the clock strikes noon, he gradually awakes from his dream, peersaround his tawdry garret apartment, and reflects with disillusionment on hislife. The prelude begins with festive music, during which the clock strikingnoon is heard as interruptive chords. The music between the chords is graduallytransformed as the poet moves from his exhilarating dream to his dismal wakingstate. Thethird prelude, La descente vers l'enfer, comes from the poem, L'irremediable.In it the poet describes a descent into hell, down a long spiraling staircase,with goblins and creatures jeering at every turn. At the end comes "Judgement." Thefourth prelude, Dans la f??ret, demi-brulee, takes its title from my frequentwalks in a Mediterranean pine-forest which had just suffered a devastating fireturning everything black. Gradually, within weeks, a new growth of greencarpeted the forest floor and wildflowers began to bloom. Baudelaire's poem,Bohemiens en voyage describes a similar image: La tribu prophetique wanderingin the desert. At first everything seems bleak as they trudge along, headsbent, but gradually they begin to notice streams of water flowing from therocks, birds singing, and flowers blossoming, as if by magic. Thefifth prelude, L?á, tout n'est qu'ordre et beaute, Luxe, calme, et volupte, isthe refrain from L'invitation au voyage. It reflects the poet's dream ofescaping to an exotic place where all is bliss and perfection. The openingmelody of the prelude is a setting of the actual words and evokes thesimplicity and calmness of the poet's fantasy dwelling. Thelast prelude, Vers le paradis de mes r?¬ves comes from Le vin des amants andinvites the reader to lose his sorrows in wine and soar the heavens on wingedhorses, leaving all cares and troubles behind.Laura Kaminsky