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An extended cello solo introduces the second movement and, after orchestral development,
the mezzo-soprano soloist, Kimball Wheeler, makes her first appearance
[listen -- track 2, 4:07-5:32]. The following excerpt, not
the darkest I could have chosen,
suggests the singer's task in presenting the poet's terrifying vision:
Neither bird-flight, inspection of entrails,
Nor Mars sweating blood
Confirmed the oracle's message of death --
Only footsteps --
Lees' music intensifies the fearful anguish of Sach's words.
The third movement remains troubled, though reluctant resignation mixes with the pure
foreboding and terror of earlier music. The movement begins with a childlike, but sinister
introduction [listen -- track 3, 0:00-1:22]. The orchestra
introduces new material and also reminds us of themes from the first two movements.
The solo violin sounds a macabre dance before Wheeler returns with the concluding verse.
The orchestra follows with a suggestion of the Dies Irae in the tympani as the
music reaches a climax that is followed by the quiet, concluding statement of the solo
Lees's Fourth can be difficult to listen to because of its unrelenting mood and subject
matter. However it demonstrates many of the composer's skills and is ultimately a
satisfying emotional and intellectual experience. Lees understandably considers himself
a 'visceral' composer, but he is also an expert craftsman. This music is intense and
tightly argued without glib or arbitrary note-spinning. Music with depth and variety of
color can be interpreted in more than one way and I'd love to hear what the Dallas
Orchestra might do with it. In the meantime, I'm happy with Kuchar's fine performance,
and recommend it without reservation.
Copyright © 3 September 2003
Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA
BUY THIS DISC FROM CROTCHET
RON BIERMAN TALKS TO BENJAMIN LEES
Lees: Symphony No 4 'Memorial Candles'
8.559002 DDD Stereo 61'42" 1999 HNH International Ltd
Kimball Wheeler, mezzo soprano; James Buswell, violin; National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine; Theodore Kuchar, conductor
Benjamin Lees: Symphony No 4 'Memorial Candles' (1985) (words: Nelly Sachs). (Visitations (slow, unhurried); Manifestations (steady tempo); Transcendence (calm, unhurried))