New voices in classical music still struggle to be heard. Composer Carson Kievman was born in 1949 and studied with some of this century's most respected composers. He has written works for important orchestras and music festivals, yet this is the first time his music has been recorded. His Symphony No. 2(42) was commissioned by the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra (FPO) in 1991 for the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death; the strange numbering probably alludes to the fact that Mozart's 41st symphony was his last. However, Kievman's symphony is not an attempt to continue or mimic Mozart's work; instead, it roughly illustrates the hypothetical journey of Mozart's soul from eighteenth-century life to eternal afterlife. Quotations from Mozart's Requiem -- unfinished at the time of his death -- are part of this journey's baggage, and these quotations are transformed by a chorus as the symphony reaches its radiant, transcendental conclusion.
Kievman uses a modernist's compositional tools, but he's a late-Romantic at heart. Emotional states of terror, joy, resignation, and so on are readily identifiable in his music, and its drama is cinematic. In short, Kievman's music challenges adventurous listeners without alienating those with more traditional tastes. Gustav Mahler might have written music like this had he been born after World War II.
This capable performance is by a Polish orchestra (Katowice) and chorus (Krakow); the conductor is Delta David Gier. (Generally, recording new American classical music is prohibitively expensive in the United States.) It would have been nice if the FPO had done the honors, but the Polish performers present Kievman's Symphony No. 2(42) as if it's a master-work, which time might prove it to be.
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