Sunday, January 28, 2007

Caught By Chance On the Radio

World Premier of William Bolcom’s Canciones de Lorca
Posted by olvlzl
William Bolcom is one of the best composers working today. Turning on the radio this afternoon, by chance I caught a recording of last September’s world premier performance of his Canciones de Lorca sung by Placido Domingo with the Pacific Symphony conducted by Carl St. Clair. I wish I had the program notes to write more details, this piece deserves a longer review.

Canciones de Lorca is a substantial song cycle written for Domingo and the Pacific Symphony. I can’t praise Domingo enough. For a singer of his years and prominence it is very rare to sing new music this challenging. To sing it so well is even rarer. When Marilyn Horne sang another of Bolcom’s song cycles it didn’t surprise me, she’s always been a great singer on the artistic frontiers. Hearing this performance erased those three big reservations that I’ve always had about Domingo’s art.

The writing uses a number of features of popular music from Spain and Latin America. I know what you might be thinking. But Bolcom brings you right up to the cusp of what could be hokey and pulls you sharply away, somewhere beyond, into new places other composers don’t seem to know about. Nah-uh, not even Astor Piazzolla. It’s something Bolcom has been doing with other popular music traditions to great effect but going to Latin traditions that have been so badly used in the past heightens the tension remarkably. It is an audacious act that Bolcom tales full advantage of to further his aims. This is no mere attempt, it’s genius. I wonder if Bolcom’s ever thought of setting La Casa de Bernada Alba. Now that would be something.

The performance of the orchestra was very good, the conducting too. I can’t wait for the recording which must come. Until then, you couldn’t do better than to listen to the recording of “Songs of Innocence and of Experience”, (Naxos Catalog #: 8559216-18) the greatest work produced by an American composer to date.