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CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Jonathan SACKS (b. 1950)
5th (S)EASON
Incantations: Book V for Orchestra (2002) [9:07]
Litanies (1990 rev 2004) [9:52]
Ghost Horses (1992) [5:23]
5th (S)eason (1993) [17:46]
Sagittarius Rising (2004) [12:57]
Sirian Blue (1978) [8:49]
Richard Stolzman (clarinet); David Pihl (piano); Emmanuel Feldman (cello); Andrew Kohji Taylor (violin); Emily Chase, Sandy Howells, Christie Howser (voices); Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra/Carl St. Clair; Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Kirk Trevor
rec. August 2003, December 2006 Futura Productions, Boston MA, July 2006, Los Angeles, CA, May 2006, Bratislava, Slovakia, 1979, San Diego, CA DDD
NAVONA NV5802 [68:03]

Experience Classicsonline

Jonathan Sacks is known as a Hollywood film composer and arranger, with titles such as Mr Holland’s Opus, Seabiscuit and The X Files: I Want to Believe. This disc incorporates a range of his concert pieces, from small-scale chamber works to orchestral canvases.

The opening track is Incantations: Book V, an orchestral work spanning almost ten minutes. The Hollywood style is instantly recognizable, and Sacks’ tonal language is combined with textural devices such as arpeggiated strings and building brass chords to create a constantly moving surface.

The first of the chamber works is Litanies, a quartet for clarinet, piano, violin and cello. In the form of a theme and variations, the harmonic language is more complex here, with an expressive use of dissonance and a satisfying range of instrumental colours within the ensemble. There are obvious parallels here with Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, and although this does not reach the emotional and spiritual intensity of Messiaen’s masterpiece, it might form an interesting companion piece in a recital. Ghost Horses returns to the film-style tonality, and is an early (1992) work for the same quartet with the addition of voices. This is a very different, more simplistic sound-world, and the piece was enjoyable but not particularly memorable.

The title track of the disc, 5th (s)eason, takes its title from a found inscription at the Sutro Baths, a pool complex near San Francisco. The anonymous poem was partially obscured, and the missing letters are represented in the sleeve-notes in brackets. The poem itself is dramatic and poignant, and ideal material for the basis of a piece of music. Scored for two pianos, Sacks uses an expressive language, with moments of energy combined with elements of calm reflection.

Sagittarius Rising explores the character of the astrological sign, and opens with an atmospheric and expansive theme worthy of a quality sci-fi movie. There are some nice moments in this piece, and Sacks demonstrates his skill as an orchestrator, especially in the climactic moments, as the listener is swept along in the majesty of the music. The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra gives a clear, and intense performance which is highly enjoyable.

The final track is a 1978 tape piece, called Sirian Blue. Here, Sacks takes us into a fascinating world of manipulated sound, extending beyond the stereotypical early electronic blips and bleeps to create melody and harmony within an ethereal reverberant atmosphere.

The playing on this disc is consistently good and Sacks’ music shows a variety of well-formed compositional techniques, in a range of contexts.

Carla Rees 



















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