<< -- 3 -- Ron Bierman TIGHT DEVELOPMENT
Although Lees hints at the programmatic, his usual care and thought have gone into symphonic construction and the music can be enjoyed without reference to external events. Themes are readily apprehended and developed with both feeling and intelligence. It is a pleasure to see this relatively neglected music recognized by the Grammy Awards Committee.
The composer and Stephen Gunzenhauser have been friends for years and the conductor leads the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz with authoritative understanding in all three symphonies. The orchestra responds beautifully, handling even the composer's sometimes difficult rhythmic effects with ease.
The final work in the program was recorded in a live performance which took place in June 2000. The longest of the five etudes for piano is under six minutes. Melodies and 'elements' are again readily understood and the forms are straightforward. The Etudes exercise specific piano techniques. In the notes Lees says the first, for example, requires '16th notes alternating between the hands'. James Dick risks breaking fingers as Lees often treats the piano as a percussion instrument. It is a driven but sparkling performance. Robert Spano and the Texas Festival Orchestra are with the pianist all the way.
This 2-CD set is highly recommended.
Copyright © 17 January 2004
Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA
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RON BIERMAN TALKS TO BENJAMIN LEES
Benjamin Lees - Symphony No 2, No 3 and No 5
TROY 564/65 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE (2 CDs) 54'41"/47'58" - TT 102'39" 2003 Albany Records
David Jäger, tenor saxophone, Lars Lauer, percussion (Symphony No 3); Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz; Stephen Gunzenhauser, conductor (symphonies); James Dick, piano; Texas Festival Orchestra; Robert Spano, conductor
Benjamin Lees (born 1924): Symphony No 2 (1958); Symphony No 3 (1969); Symphony No 5 (1986); Etudes for Piano and Orchestra (1974)