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In conceiving his inaugural season as Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony, Louis Langrée wanted to celebrate the Orchestra's rich tradition of excellence and its legacy of introducing the world to new works. Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait had its world premiere performance by the Cincinnati Symphony at Music Hall in 1942. November of 2013 marked the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Those powerful words were delivered here by legendary author, poet, activist and humanitarian Dr. Maya Angelou, a mere seven months before her recent passing at the age of 86; Hallowed Ground is dedicated in her memory. Hallowed Ground also features live recordings of two new works commissioned by the Orchestra for the MusicNOW Festival in March of 2014. Nico Muhly's Pleasure Ground is a musical portrait of the iconic landscape architect and designer Frederick Law Olmsted and David Lang's mountain is a musical portrait of composer Aaron Copland, who had a strong connection with the Cincinnati Symphony. Both these pieces and the Orchestra's overall collaboration with the MusicNOW Festival represent a true spirit of innovation in Cincinnati, and affirm this as a place of experimentation.
Featured on WHPK --WHPK Radio, 08/25/2014
"Hallowed Ground is derived from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address," said Mr. Langrée. "All of this music is inspired by sacred spaces - from the battlefield to incredible vistas to beautiful community gathering points."
Hallowed Ground was recorded live at Music Hall in November 20133 and March 2014, and features Aaron Copland's iconic Lincoln Portrait with one of the most inspiring voices of our time, the late Dr. Maya Angelou narrating. Part of Mr. Langrée's inaugural program as Music Director, Lincoln Portrait received its world premiere by the CSO at Music Hall in 1942, and has become a mainstay with orchestras around the world.
"November of 2013 marked the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and those powerful words resonate today, especially delivered by legendary author, poet, activist and humanitarian Dr. Maya Angelou," said Mr. Lamgrée. "It was a great honor and privilege for us to work with Dr. Angelou, just seven months before her passing at the age of 86." --Africlassical, August 19 2014
Never pass up the chance to hear David Lang's orchestral music...Copland's chestnut is presented here with narration by the late, equally beloved Maya Angelou, whose narration - coming from a deep understanding of the text - offers it the noble but very human voice that the piece requires. She is a comforting presence, but her voice, recorded just half a year before her death, comes tinged with the sorrow of experience. Conductor Louis Langrée's often brash interpretation hardly shies away from the music's reminders of the violence that defined the Lincoln presidency...Lang's piece is pure violence...Nico Muhly, a David Lang proselyte, completes the program with Pleasure Ground, which sows severe, Langian gestures with a Coplandesque humanity. --Daniel Stephen Johnson, Q2 Music Album of the Week
""When I heard the orchestra, they lifted me out of myself, and I was suddenly on that battlefield, seeing the bodies..." Her emotions come across clearly in this live recording, which no doubt will be added to the list of seminal readings of the work, especially since it was one Angelou's last public performances before to her death. Hallowed ground indeed."
"Muhly's expressive writing is extremely accessible, and the work is given an expert reading by Wyatt and the CSO. I expect Pleasure Ground will be programmed by other orchestras, particularly in cities such as New York and Chicago where Olmstead's iconic parks define the urban landscape." --Brenda Nelson Strauss, Black Grooves
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"Hallowed Ground" (3 pieces; 47 min.) brings a mix of old and new music. The CD starts off with the 'old': Aaron Copeland's "Lincoln Portrait". This is a well-known piece and is performed widely by many (American) orchestras. What sets this aside, is that the narration comes from none other than Dr. Maya Angelou. Keep in mind, this was recorded in November '13, and even though this was mere months before her passing, Dr. Angelou's narration is strong and confident. She will be missed, and this recording adds a little piece to her overall legacy. The last 2 pieces represent the 'new', with 2 pieces commissioned by the CSO for the MusicNOW Festival (more on that later). First there is "mountain', from American composer David Lang, and it is a fantastic 13 min. slow-burner, with frequent 'stop-and-go' between the various sections of the orchestra, which eventually will transfix and mesmerize, almost hypnotize, you. My favorite piece on this CD for sure. The second one is "Pleasure Ground", from composer Nico Muhly. It is an 18 min. sung piece, with baritone Nathan Wyatt in a shining role. I must say that I give a lot of credit to Maestro Langree to release these 2 mostly unknown composers on his first release for the CSO. Bold move indeed, but one which pays off. Please note the CD comes with a rich 20 page booklet which brings extensive liner notes on all three pieces (including the lyrics for "Pleasure Ground") and other background information.
A quick word on the MusicNOW Festival: it is curated by Bryce Dessner (of the band The National), who hails from Cincinnati of course. In the early years, the festival showcased mostly indie-rock music (think: Joanna Newsom, St. Vincent, Justin Vernon, Grizzly Bear, etc.) but then came a turn to more classical sounds (such as Kronos Quartet) and in the last couple of years, it became a full-blown joint venture with the CSO. 2 years ago, the CSO premiered a Philip Glass piece. The 2 pieces that are on this collection were recorded at Music Hall in March '14. I had the good fortune of being there that weekend, and it was a fantastic evening of new, adventurous classical music. Here's hoping for a long and fruitful relationship between the CSO and Maestro Langree. Meanwhile, "Hallowed Ground" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!