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Jean Oelrich
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joelrich@pacificsymphony.org

Symbol for a brighter future: on March 25, Naxos to release recording of Richard Danielpour’s “Toward a Season of Peace,” commissioned and performed by Pacific Symphony

March 10, 2014

Pacific Symphony’s newest recording of a three-part oratorio crafted by one of the most sought-after composers of his generation, Richard Danielpour, is set to be released by Naxos on March 25. Written for the Persian holiday of Nowruz in 2012, “Toward a Season a Peace” was premiered by Pacific Symphony, conducted by Music Director Carl St.Clair, in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Orange County, Calif. The work features Pacific Chorale (Artistic Director John Alexander) and Grammy-winning soprano Hila Plitmann. By weaving together sacred passages with texts by the great Sufi poet Rumi, Danielpour explores violence and war in the name of religion, using the season of spring as a metaphor for change and transformation. The work was commissioned for the Symphony’s 2012 American Composers Festival, “Nowruz—Celebrating Spring,” presented in collaboration with the Farhang Foundation.

This CD marks the third recording of works commissioned during the last two seasons. It continues the momentum of the Symphony’s American Recordings Project, which launched in September 2012 with the release of Philip Glass’ “The Passion of Ramakrishna” by Orange Mountain Music and continued with a CD of works by Michael Daugherty on the Naxos label in April 2013. Two more recordings featuring Symphony-commissioned works by prominent American composers are scheduled to be released in the near future. These include: William Bolcom’s “Songs of Lorca” and “Prometheus” (commissioned for the composer’s 75th birthday) and James Newton Howard’s “I Would Plant a Tree.” For more information about Pacific Symphony, visit: www.PacificSymphony.org

 

“Through our American Composers Festival’s commissioned works and general repertoire, Pacific Symphony is, in a very personal way, connecting with our community of Orange County,” says Music Director Carl St.Clair. “Our powerful collaboration with Farhang and the Southern Californian Persian community during the 2012’s Nowruz Festival is an example of how music is bringing us together. Richard Danielpour’s expansive choral work, ‘Toward a Season of Peace’ reminds us that we can, and should, come together and unite for a greater good—with peace, understanding, tolerance, respect, friendship and ultimately, love.” 

Nowruz, which means “New Day,” is the celebration of the Persian New Year. Taking place on the first day of spring, it marks the most joyous and important celebration that spreads from Iran to their neighbors in Asia. Persians from various religious, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds come together to greet the New Year and hope for a better year to come. Inspired by this time for renewal and reconciliation, Danielpour, an American composer with a Persian memory, wrote “Toward a Season of Peace” to honor his Iranian ancestry and culture.

The three-part oratorio is cast in seven movements, with the first part composed of texts dealing primarily with ideas of war, conflict and destruction. The second part begins with the famous litany of Ecclesiastes and culminates with a setting of the Lord’s Prayer, invoking the choice between war and peace, and part three sings of the promise of peace through forgiveness and the transformation that this brings about.

“We live in a sick world that needs a lot of healing,” says Danielpour. “Over time, I’ve realized that has borne itself out more and more in the work I’ve written. I am not interested so much in politics as in humanitarian issues, but often times, what is political crosses over and becomes humanitarian. I’m interested in human beings, in fairness, in fair treatment, in justice, in people not being used as pawns for others’ political games. And that, in that sense, when something crosses over, that’s where you’ll find me.”  

Danielpour’s distinctive American voice is part of a rich neo-Romantic heritage with influences from pivotal composers like Britten, Copland, Bernstein and Barber. He has been commissioned by some of the world’s leading musical institutions—including earlier works for Pacific Symphony (“An American Requiem,” “Mirrors,” and the newly orchestrated version of “A Child’s Reliquary”); the New York Philharmonic (“Toward the Splendid City” and “Through the Ancient Valley”); The Philadelphia Orchestra (“Violin Concerto”); the San Francisco Symphony (“Symphony No. 2,” “Song of Remembrance” and the “Cello Concerto”); Pittsburgh Symphony (“Concerto for Orchestra,” celebrating the orchestra’s centennial, and “A Woman’s Life”); Baltimore Symphony (“The Awakened Heart”); National Symphony (“Voices of Remembrance”); the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (“Piano Quintet” and “Sonnets to Orpheus, Book 1,” for Dawn Upshaw); Absolut Vodka (“Piano Concerto No. 2”); the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival (“Sonnets to Orpheus, Book 2”); the Isaac and Linda Stern Foundation (“River of Light,” for violinist Sarah Chang); Concertante (“Kaddish”); and most recently, the Sejong Soloists (“Lacrimae Beati”).

Among Danielpour’s awards are a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Charles Ives Fellowship and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, five MacDowell Colony Fellowships, a Jerome Foundation Award and a Rockefeller Foundation Grant.

Plitman, who is featured on the new Danielpour release, maintains a vibrant and extraordinarily diverse professional life in film music, musical theater and songwriting, among her accomplishments, and she regularly premieres works by many of today’s leading composers.

The Los Angeles Times calls soprano Hila Plitmann a performer with “tremendous vocal and physical grace,” while USA Today wrote: “Her emotional interpretation of ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ unleashes startling fury and despair.” Of her extensive soundtrack work as a soloist for the Hollywood blockbuster “The Da Vinci Code,” CNN said: “Plitmann’s glissandi sail above the petty pulpits of earthly doctrine with an ethereal ease that argues for Plitmann’s pairing with [Kathleen] Battle or Dawn Upshaw.”

Born and raised in Jerusalem and currently living in London, Plitmann has accumulated an impressive catalogue of professional recordings, appearing on the Decca, Telarc, Naxos, CRI, Reference Recordings and Disney labels. The “Da Vinci Code Soundtrack” (Decca) was a

worldwide bestseller, spending several weeks on the Billboard charts. Both Paul Revere’s “Ride” (Telarc), and “Da Vinci Code” received Grammy nominations, and in 2009 Plitmann won the Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Performance for her work on the Naxos recording of John Corigliano’s song cycle “Mr. Tambourine Man” with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Plitmann can also be heard on the soundtrack of the film “New York, I Love You.” She has been awarded the coveted Sony ES Prize for her outstanding contribution to the vocal arts.