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Concertos for Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's centennial -
appreciated by RON BIERMAN

'... filled with romantic gestures and crowd-pleasing virtuosity.'

Benjamin Lees - Leonardo Balada - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. © 1996 Recorded Anthology of American Music Inc

This disk presents three of the works written for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's centennial celebration. There is much to commend -- the composers merit a wider audience; it's hard to imagine better performances; and we hear concertos for French horn, oboe and bassoon rather than overworked violins or pianos.

The first piece is possibly the best introduction on disk for those unfamiliar with Benjamin Lees. Of the three works here I believe it has the best chance of entering the standard repertoire. It's a horn concerto that glories in the strength and nobility of the instrument and gives musician William Caballero a chance to show he has at least a lung or two more than most people [listen -- track 1, 4:29-6:52]. The work is typical of the composer in its intensity and aggressive use of brass and percussion. It also features largely traditional structures, the tight working out of melodic material and what Lees terms 'extended tonality.' These characteristics make him one of the more readily recognized contemporary composers. The concerto's three movements are filled with romantic gestures and crowd-pleasing virtuosity [listen -- track 3, 4:14-5:13].

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Copyright © 8 October 2003 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


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