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Leonardo Balada's oboe concerto has a more contemporary, but less distinctive sound. Throughout the long, single movement work, as in the excerpt below, the romantic sounding oboe is attacked by the more boisterous and dissonant orchestra. The composer tells us the oboe keens the lament of nature as the accompaniment suggests man's violence to the environment. It's a clever idea and Balada has expert command of the orchestra, but the melodic material is weaker than the concept and, for most listeners, unlikely to stand up well to repeated hearings. Oboist Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida has a warm, beautiful tone and negotiates the most difficult passages with ease [listen -- track 4, 14:49-16:04].

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich is probably the most recorded of the composers here. Bassoonist Nancy Goeres does full justice to Zwilich's challenging concerto. It is in two movements, the first predominately slow in tempo, the second more lively. While the first two composers follow traditional instrumental approaches -- bold horn, romantic oboe -- Zwilich's bassoon is far removed from the perky, humorous woodwind of Vivaldi or Hummel. Instead she assigns it more serious material and, especially in the concluding movement, demands tremendous range [listen -- track 6, 7:37-9:09]. The concerto is immediately accessible and wears well.

This is a fine release. Maazel chose to commission and record works that give exceptional first chair players from the Pittsburgh Symphony an opportunity to shine, and they do, in concertos by contemporary composers who haven't forgotten how to communicate with an audience. Highly recommended.

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

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Benjamin Lees - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich - Leonardo Balada

80503-2 Stereo 62'02" 1996 Recorded Anthology of American Music Inc

William Caballero, french horn; Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida, oboe; Nancy Goeres, bassoon; Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Lorin Maazel, conductor

Benjamin Lees (born 1924): Concerto for French Horn and Orchestra (1991); Leonarda Balada (born 1933): Music for Oboe and Orchestra: Lament from the Cradle of the Earth (1993); Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (born 1939): Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra (1993)

BUY THIS DISC FROM AMAZON

ELLEN TAAFFE ZWILICH

BENJAMIN LEES

RON BIERMAN TALKS TO BENJAMIN LEES

LEONARDO BALADA

PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

LORIN MAAZEL

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