Wuorinen: Eighth Symphony (Theologoumena); Fourth Piano Concerto

Reviewed on Tue 03 Jan, 2017

Cast in three contrasted movements – the first magisterially bold; the second chamber-like and poetically meditative; the third mercurial and light with piano foregrounded – the symphony teems with an often combustible energy in its quest to find accommodation between ancient classical belief systems and Christian monotheism.

Despite Charles Wuorinen’s explanation of the subtitle of his Eighth Symphony – ‘Theologoumena’ – as ‘a private non-dogmatic theological opinion’, there is clearly a musical position being taken in a work of obvious conviction. Cast in three contrasted movements – the first magisterially bold; the second chamber-like and poetically meditative; the third mercurial and light with piano foregrounded – it teems with an often combustible energy in its quest to find accommodation between ancient classical belief systems and Christian monotheism. Wuorinen is helped enormously by the strident advocacy of the Boston players under his long-time champion James Levine. The same is true of the Fourth Piano Concerto – recorded live at its premiere in 2005 – with Peter Serkin (for whom it was written) taking the animated lead. It displays its kinship with the symphony in music that is, by turns, concrete-hard and severe and magically poetic with an edge of fantasy. Solid performances, bold recorded sound, and informative notes by Robert Kirzinger.
–Michael Quinn