Songs and Love and Sorrow is a new CD of music by Peter Lieberson played by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and its chief conductor Hannu Lintu. There are two works on the album. The first is The Six Realms; a cello symphony in six movements heavily influenced by Tibetan Buddhism. The soloist here is Lieberson’s close friend Anssi Karttunen. Curiously this work was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as part of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project and premiered by them with Yo -Yo Ma conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste. For more information on the piece see the Composer’s Notes.
The piece is highly evocative and mixes tonal lyricism and some atonality in a distinctive and pleasing way. I particularly like Lieberson’s ability to weave long lyrical lines for the cello against a colourful but never overwhelming orchestral background. It’s beautifully played here too.
The second piece on the disk is Songs of Love and Sorrow; a setting of five poems by Pablo Neruda for baritone (in this case Gerald Finley) and orchestra. The story here is very much tied up with the death of Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson and Lieberson’s own struggle with cancer. That story and the composer’s own thoughts on the piece can be found here.
There is a lot of tension and intensity in this music. It’s reflective but also desolate. It perfectly captures the ambiguous essence of Neruda’s poetry in which Love and Death are never very far apart. There’s something intensely personal; powerful and lonely, about both words and music and they are beautifully expressed in Finley’s rather lovely and expressive voice. The final repeated “Adios” of the setting of Sonnet LXXXII speaks volumes.
There was no documentation with my pre-release copy though I expect the texts and translations will be included in the retail version. It’s well recorded too with a very clear, fairly neutral acoustic.
This is one of the most beautiful records of new music to come my way in a while and I highly recommend it.