Three works for solo instruments and orchestra
and all dating from the first half of the 1990s.
Lees' style in the Horn Concerto is
becoming more familiar to me. Loosely speaking he touches on late
Vaughan Williams with other elements from the ‘softer end’ - from
Randall Thompson and at the more ‘scarifying end’ from William
Schuman. He is certainly not 'difficult' and he never veers far
from tonality. During the long cadenza the natural tones of the
horn reminds the listener of Britten's Serenade. William
Caballero is fully equal to the demands of the score which include
the sunny chiming directness and evolving nobility of the 'calmly'
middle movement. The aggressive writing of the finale reminds
me of Herrmann's On Dangerous Ground and North by North-West.
Lees solves the finale problem with a very satisfying sign-off.
The single movement Balada piece is more
exotic with the instrument chanting with its piping; sometimes
sweet and sometimes caustically penetrating sound. Fury is not
absent as you can hear at 7.05 and 12.20. At 15.20 the composer
seems to confide in us glimpses of chaos and of Breughel’s ‘Garden
of Earthly Delights’. There is an easy singing at 8.40 rising
like a variant of the start of Beethoven 5. At 13.58 there is
a sweetly chanting Chinese effect pizzicato. Very much a fantasy
concertstück. The Zwilich concerto goes with the grain
of the bassoon’s oakily singing soul. with spitting thundering
percussion and much quirky variety along the way.
Incidentally what quirk of marketing prompts
the instruction on the casing to file under Classical/Zwilich
rather than Classical/Lees.
Good notes as usual from New World and high end
acoustics. Nothing here seems at all humdrum; no doubt each work
was recorded in the wake of concert performances which usually
helps. The soloists are easily a match for the many dimensions
of each work.
The Lees is one of the finest Horn Concertos
I have heard. Seek out this disc and I doubt you will be at all