CHARLES WUORINEN (b.1938): Symphony No. 8 “Theologoumena”, Piano Concerto No. 4.
Catalogue Number: 01S007
Description: Both of these works were commissioned for Levine and the BSO. The 8th Symphony is related to Wuorinen's 2003 symphonic poem "Theologoumenon", defined in the composer's preface to the symphony as 'a private, non-dogmatic theological opinion'. The half-hour three-movement symphony can be played independently or incorporating the earlier work to form a four-movement structure. The first movement is tumultuous and possesses a powerful forward momentum. The music is complex and essentially atonal, though certain intervallic relationships are important and readily discernible. The second movement is slow, restrained and intricately contrapuntal, with a preponderance of delicately colored chamber music textures; there are distinct similarities to Schönberg's dodecaphonic orchestral pieces. A rhythmically insistent passage ushers in the movement's first tutti as a final climax. The third movement is fast and mercurial, with a busy, skittering rôle for the percussion section. After a massive chordal interjection, piano and percussion come to the fore in an apparent reference to the vigor of Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements. The Fourth Piano Concerto is also a substantial three-movement work lasting nearly half an hour. The piano's resonant characteristics, amplified and further resonated by the orchestra, are an important aspect of the piece. Roulades of notes from the piano set off spiraling waves of sound in the orchestra, and from time to time the explicit imitation of the piano in bell timbres makes the relationship even more apparent. After the free fantasia of the first movement, the second is more rhythmic and assertive. Heavy chordal writing for the piano is largely absent throughout the work, the composer's preferred texture being complex, rapidly shifting fields of pitches and intervals. The final movement has a persistent pulse, against which the piano spins long, lyrical lines in irregular meters, intermittently interrupted by startling outbursts from the orchestra. Peter Serkin (piano), Boston Symphony Orchestra; James Levine.