ELIZABETH R. AUSTIN (b.1938): Wilderness (Symphony No. 1) for Reciters and Orchestra (Melinda Lieberman, Anthony King [reciters], Kraków Radio Symphony Orchestra; Szymon Kawalla., Lighthouse (Symphony No. 2 - Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra; Joel Eric Suben), An American Triptych and 5 Puzzle Preludes for Piano (Ulrich Urban), 5 Sonnets from the Portuguese (Liebermann [soprano], Cornelius Witthöft [piano]), 3 Rilke Lieder (Amanda Kohl [soprano], Christopher Grundy [baritone], Elizabeth R. Austin [piano]).

Catalogue Number: 08W049

Label: Navona Records

Reference: NV6304

Format: CD

Price: $14.98

Description: This composer portrait of the splendidly non-conforming octogenarian brings together a broad cross-section of her thoroughly approachable, bewilderingly eclectic music. Summing up Austin's style without misrepresenting it is not easy. She delights in quotations, often fairly extended and undisguised, though distorted or altered ad lib., but they occur in her original textures like bits of Latin, Greek, French, Scots, or what have you in a polyglot poem by Eliot, Pound or MacDiarmid without weakening their originality one whit. Her idiom is firmly based in tonality, but sometimes layered in Ivesian cacophony (perhaps being based 60 miles from Danbury, CT has something to do with this), and she is not averse to either harsh dissonance or open-air folksy Americana as appropriate. The symphonies are tough, impactful works. The first illustrates Carl Sandburg's poem "Wilderness" which, in Sandburg's earthy, vivid imagery reminds us that under the veneer of civilization, we are not so very far from our animal ancestors. Jagged, angular thematic fragments vie for supremacy with a leaping motif arranged from extracts of Petrushka and a recurring heartbeat motif which dominates late in the work as a visceral ostinato. Sandburg’s delight in folklore is celebrated by a banjo ... The Second Symphony bears title "Lighthouse" symbolising a beacon in troubled times (around the turn of the Millennium). The first movement is imposing and ominous, and abounds in quotations, hidden or less so, from music of America and Europe, mostly with maritime associations; the second is a sinister burlesque scherzo on a theme by Johann Stamitz which is treated with scant respect in a movement no more lighthearted or comforting than the equivalent one in Mahler's 9th; and the finale, "Elegia" looks to the future with foreboding and invokes the lighthouse as a beacon of hope in a solemn, swelling chorale. The Triptych is a quodlibet on musical Americana, presenting folk tunes and jazz styles in three mainstream-20th-century-modern concert pieces (Prokofiev and "Turkey in the Straw" make odd bedfellows!) The Puzzle Preludes misquote earlier composers and build original and effective short works around them, the puzzle being to identify the original sources. Two song cycles, setting Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Rilke (in the composer’s translation), both in late-Romantic Lieder style round out a rewarding and varied program. Some of these recordings were previously issued on Capstone, but others are new. Texts and translations available online.

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