Arnold Rosner Orchestral Works, Vol. 2

This installment of Rosner’s orchestral music shows a wide range of emotional expression.

The 1976 Five Ko-ans for Orchestra encapsulates the essence of Rosner’s style. The music’s mostly triadic, with chords resolving in delightfully unexpected ways. Rosner incorporated Renaissance modality and late Medieval counterpoint into his music.

It’s no accident that the final movement of this work is titled “Isorhythmic Motet.” The blending of early music compositional techniques with a modern orchestra makes the work sound timeless, not bound to a particular century or idiom.

Unraveling Dances is a late work. It’s a set of theme and variations laid over a multi-rhythmic bolero. Yes, there’s a nod to Ravel’s “Bolero,” but Rosner’s work sounds much closer to the dance’s origins.

The Parable of the Law is a harrowing setting of a Franz Kafta text. A person comes to a door, and the doorkeeper refuses him admittance. The person waits out his entire life, only to learn at death that the door was meant only for him.

Rosner’s orchestral setting provides a roiling and restless accompaniment to the baritone.  The baritone relates The Parable of the Law sometimes singing, sometimes shouting, sometimes growling.

While Rosner shows great skill, for me, it’s the least interesting work I’ve heard from this composer. It just seemed as if the whole work was just one (overly long) exposition.

Christopher Burchett delivers an exceptionally dramatic performance. But there’s just not that much for him to work with.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra under Nick Palmer shine. Rosner uses a unique orchestral palette, and this ensemble makes it sound magnificent.

While I personally think the Parable is weak, overall I liked the album. Five Ko-ans is considered one of Rosner’s best work, and it’s easy to hear why. And Unraveling Dances is just plain fun. In this case, two out of three is very good.

Arnold Rosner: Orchestral Music, Vol. 2
Five Ko-ans for Orchestra, Op. 65; Unraveling Dances, Op. 122; The Parable of the Law, Op. 97
Christopher Burchett, baritone; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Nick Palmer, conductor
Toccata Classics NOCC 0465

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