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ClassicsOnline Home » DANIELPOUR, R.: Toward a Season of Peace (Plitmann, Pacific Chorale, Pacific Symphony, St. Clair)
One of the most sought-after and acclaimed composers of his generation, Richard Danielpour refers to himself as “an American composer with a Middle Eastern memory.” His distinctive voice is part of a rich neo-Romantic heritage which includes composers such as Copland, Bernstein and Barber. Toward a Season of Peace is an oratorio which explores violence and war in the name of religion, using the season of spring as a metaphor for change and transformation toward songs of peace through forgiveness. Danielpour’s insistence on music having “an immediate visceral impact” can be heard throughout his oeuvre, and the beautifully translated Persian poetry and rich spirit of harmony in Toward a Season of Peace make it symbolic of a brighter future for everyone.
A modern masterwork
Richard Danielpour's "Towards a Season of Peace" is an ambitious work -- and one that succeeds in that ambition. Danielpour combines texts from Jewish, Christian and Persian (Arabic) sources in his oratorio for peace. By doing so, he shows the parallels and common ground between the three major religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Muslim -- currently at war with each other in the Middle East.
Unlike Bernstein's "Requiem Mass," Danielpour never gets preachy. He lets the inherent beauty of the poetic texts, supported by his music, speak for itself. The work is tonal and quite easy to follow -- which I suspect was Danielpour's intention. This isn't an esoteric work for the cognescenti, but rather a work that can be heard and enjoyed by a much wider audience. If you enjoy "modern" composers such as Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, or Michael Tippett, then you should find much to like in Danielpour's composition. Not that he sounds like any of those composers, but Danielpour seems to be coming from the same place.
In the liner notes Danielpour talks about reconnecting with his Persian musical heritage, and several parts of the score reflect that, adding a verve and excitement not found in works sticking to just Western traditions.
Hila Plitmann's in fine form, letting her clear soprano voice float lightly above the orchestra in her solos. The overall performance by the Pacific Chorale, Pacific Symphony and conductor Carl St. Clair benefit from their close working relationship with the composer. This may be a world-premier recording, but the ensemble performs it as if it were a work they had been playing for years.more....
Thought provoking and beautiful work form this wonderful composer
Richard Danielpour communicates in a lovely, clear, tonal and often touching way through his music. His music also and often has a pan-cultural approach and he is a composer who is in touch with his own heritage, as an American born of Iranian parents. His experiences as translated through his music are also impacted by the year he spent in Iran, as a child, which he openly recalls as "unpleasant". Much like his "Darkness in the Ancient Valley", this expansive and beautiful oratorio, "Toward a Season of Peace" reflects on the sad irony that causes religion and a person's freedom to believe as they want to come into clash and result in war and tragedy.
Even without the meaningful, thought provoking and sometimes breath-taking, heart stopping text with its sources in the Bible and Islamic poetry, this piece is a joy to listen to. It begins in an almost threatening way with percussion and brass sounding an undescribed assault but the tone shifts from anguish and fear to a restful acceptance as we hear the poetry of the mystic Rumi, penned by Danielpour, and sung beautifully by Richard's frequent collaborator, the amazing Hila Plitmann.
There are so many highlights to this nearly hour long and beautiful work; among them the tender 'Consecration' after Isaiah and the pleading, writhing sounds of the 'Atonement' after Ecclesiastes, but sung in Aramaic. I think if I had to think about it; I favored the softer, tranquil sections of work over the more 'frantic' sections and there are moments that sound maybe a bit too directly "middle eastern". However, this is too much analysis.
I am a big fan of Richard Danielpour's music. I find it all consistently interesting and wonderful in its ability to speak to almost any audience and he is one of those composers who is truly gifted at writing for a full chorus and orchestra; not an easy thing to do.
This is by all accounts a moving, provocative piece of work that has moments of great beauty and leaves you feeling like you want to hear more. The Pacific Symphony and Chorale under their gifted conductor Carl St. Clair perform at their usual high quality. Many thanks to Naxos, incidentally, for having recorded this amazing group often; just an hour down the road from the powerful LA Philharmonic, this is a consistently wonderful orchestra I have heard live before.
If you have never heard any of Richard Danielpour's music; I think this piece, or his Cello Concerto are great places to start!more....
Richard Danielpour (b. 1956)
Toward a Season of Peace
I’ve often referred to myself as an American Composer with a Middle Eastern memory. My parents were both born in Iran; born in the US, I spent a year in Iran (1963–64), and although I was just a child, I remember much about that year. In addition to learning Farsi, I laid the bedrock of my understanding about the world which deepened as I matured.
Sadly, the experience in Iran was for various reasons an unpleasant one, and I had fallen in love with Western Music and culture, so as I grew into adulthood I kept my Persian heritage at a distance. In recent years, however, I have become engrossed in this ancestral legacy and deeply interested in the way the people of Iran and the whole of the Middle East are pleading to be heard in the face of oppressive regimes.
Perhaps the thing of greatest interest and concern to me is how the peoples of this part of the world have used religion to remain at war with one another, in spite of the fact that Jews, Muslims and Christians all believe in “One God.” Ironically all of the great religions speak of peace as a fundamental goal for humanity. “Shalom”, “Salaam Allecham”, and “Peace Be With You” are primary greetings in Judaism, Islam and Christianity respectively. This is the reason for my using multiple languages in Toward a Season of Peace.
I used a first class English translation of the work of Persian poet Rumi and not the original Farsi for two reasons: I wanted to acquaint American listeners with the greatness of Rumi’s very accessible work. And it seemed critical to have a sonic contrast to Hebrew and Arabic which Farsi—similar to both languages even though the two are dissimilar to one another—would not provide. Thus Rumi acts as an arbiter, a voice of wisdom and clarity in the polarized dialectic between Hebrew and Arabic.
The three part oratorio is cast in seven movements; Part 1 is comprised of the first, second and third movements using settings of texts dealing primarily with war and destruction; Part 2, movement four, begins with the famous litany of Ecclesiastes and culminates with a setting of the Lord’s Prayer, invoking the choice between war and peace; and Part 3, the last three movements, sings of the promise of peace through forgiveness.
The work is titled Toward a Season of Peace because the “season” in question is Spring, which appears in many of the texts and is sometimes a metaphor for change and transformation. Moreover, the Persian New Year, Nowruz, which is celebrated on the first day of Spring, heralds a time of renewal and reconciliation. That the world première of this new work was given on or just after Nowruz was not an accident. May it be shared by all in the spirit of harmony.
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