Kevin Puts: Symphony No. 2
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Awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2012, Kevin Puts now stands in the forefront of contemporary American composers. His powerfully conceived Symphony No. 2 is a musical illustration of the events of 9/11 and traces a movement from unsuspecting bliss and rhapsody through violent upheaval to a reflective epilogue that contains both uncertainty and hope. Possibly inspired by thoughts of the Mississippi, River's Rush employs novel harmonies, while elegant transparency distinguishes the refined beauty of the Flute Concerto.
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The CD also includes two other world-premiere recordings. Puts composed his ten-minute tone poem "River's Rush" in 2004 for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. The music rolls and shifts in tempo and harmonies as it captures in sound the flow of a mighty river. The piece opens forcefully with some softer writing in a middle section, and a bigger close. There are shifts in orchestration, orchestration, and harmony making it a delight to flow with the course of the river. The music reminded both the composer and me of the Mississippi.
The final work on the CD is a three movement flute concerto that Puts composed in 2013-2014. Adam Walker, principal flutist of the London Symphony Orchestra, is the soloist. The concerto features two short, fast-tempo outer movements and a longer middle movement. It makes use of the piano as an orchestral instrument. The opening movement has a translucency which captures well the features of the flute. The orchestra opens with an immediately engaging and simple theme which is embroidered throughout with an increasing percussive element as the movement progresses. The second movement takes the famous "Elvira Madigan" slow movement of Mozart and elaborates it in a way different from the quiet beauty of piano concerto from which the theme derives. The movement has some loud rather turbulent moments. The finale is a jazzy and rhythmic and features hand-clapping towards the end.
As do other contemporary American composers, Kevin Puts writes in an accessible, tonal style which will appeal to a broad audience as opposed to the music of not too many years ago. In this recording Marin Alsop conducts the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, composed largely of upper class and graduate students in this venerable conservatory. Puts wrote the brief, informative liner notes for the album. I heard Puts' music for the first time on this CD which is part of the American Classics series of Naxos.. I was moved by the commemoration of September 11 and gratified by the continuing vitality of America and its composers.. Naxos kindly sent me a review copy.
Total Time: 56:35