Heidi Grant Murphy, soprano; The Hilliard Ensemble; The New York Philharmonic, Lorin Maazel
These are the world-premiere recordings of orchestral works by three of the most acclaimed contemporary American composers.
“Composing for voice is my first passion in life, and as a result the largest part of my catalogue is music for voice: solo voice, small groups of voices, small or large choirs, with and without orchestral or other kinds of accompaniments. For me, the human voice－possibly the most subtle, complex, and fragile yet forceful, flexible, seductive, and persuasive carrier of musical ideas and meanings－has always been an inspiration for and influence upon my entire musical thinking. Emily Dickinson's poems are intensely personal, intellectual, introspective, and offer a meditation on life, death, and poetic creation; her poems share a close observation of nature as well as consideration of religious and philosophical issues. The poems used in Gathering Paradise (2004) are marked by the intimate recollection of inspirational moments which are suggestive of hope and the possibility of happiness found in art and in the observation of the natural world."
—Augusta Read Thomas
"Summer Lightning (1991) is the latest and perhaps most brazen step my music has taken in recent works toward simplicity and candor. At times I feel like some fate-driven Istar, shedding veils of complexity and sophistication, moving inexorably toward a blinding light of simple truth. Perhaps it is, on the other hand, simply a regression to a child-like state of delight in those simple harmonies and rhythms that made being a musician the only path my life could take."
— Jacob Druckman, on the work's 1991 premiere
"Maestro Maazel invited me to consider creating a piece which might reflect on the anniversary of the September 11 attack. Shortly thereafter the idea of using this text came to mind because of the beautiful way it affords a broader historical context within which to view the crises of our own time. The resulting symphony (2003) is something of a sacred work, though from a humanist point of view.
"The text is an Old English elegy, perhaps one of the oldest surviving Old English poems, from the eighth or ninth century. In it the poet describes the ruins of a Roman city (perhaps Bath), contrasting the decay he sees with imaginings of the splendor that once was. What is particularly striking is that it does not moralize, as later memento mori poems do, but rather celebrates the creative spirit of the city's vanished inhabitants. The text is somewhat fragmentary owing to the age of the volume in which it was found and the damage it had sustained. Thus the poem fades in and out, and the actual ending is entirely missing (though the final surviving line, ‘That was spacious,' provides a satisfying close). The piece is cast in a single movement, but is clearly divided into four main sections: the slower ones (the first and the third) treat the descriptions of the ruined city, and the faster ones are the evocations of the greatness of the city at its height." — Stephen Hartke