KEVIN PUTS (b.1972): Symphony No. 4 "From Mission San Juan", for Chorus: If I Were a Swan, To Touch the Sky (Conspirare; Craig Hella Johnson).
Catalogue Number: 09P009
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Reference: HMU 907580
Description: Puts' symphony depicts the history and character of a Mission Church, with its roots in the tensions between the Native Americans and missionaries in the region, which provides the competing musical arguments suggested in symphonic form. In a thoroughly accessible, tonal idiom and vivid colorful scoring, the symphony begins by evoking the calm interior space of the sanctuary. This is a recurring motif later in the work, appearing in the background to the sprightly second movement, a kind of dancing scherzo referencing the traditional music of the Mutsun Indians. The solemn third movement suggests the friars' chanting, building to a powerful climax as the two opposing cultures collide. This subsides, and as the stately, unchanging structure again provides the setting, the finale - 'healing song' emerges and builds to a grandly romantic resolution to conclude the work. The cycle 'To Touch the Sky' sets texts by nine very different women authors, assembled to form an arc, from the mysteries of faith, through questioning, earthly distractions and doubt, back to a reaffirmation of faith, all from a female perspective. Puts' vocabulary is again thoroughly tonal and gently consonant, with some intriguing textures created through ingenious chordal glissandi, powerfully depicting a spiritual ascension, and suspended harmonies and rhythmic devices creating tension and motion. Fleda Brown's 'If I Were a Swan' was originally to have been part of the sequence, but took on a separate existence, with soaring contrapuntal lines and a passage of insistently repeated syllables suggesting graceful flight. Texts included.