Radio-Philharmonie Hannover des Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Gunther Schuller, conductor; Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Mario Bernardi, conductor; James Diaz, organ
For a half-century now, as composer, conductor, instrumentalist, scholar, educator, administrator, jazz historian, and general activist, Gunther Schuller has been a unique and indispensable factor in our musical life. The three works on this disc, all composed within the space of a few months in 1993 and 1994, can hardly fail to be recognized as music of intensity, power and compassion, and indeed Schuller has acknowledged that they have a profound personal significance for him: two of the works bear loving testimony—in the most direct sense—to a unique and irreplaceable factor in his own life. They are memorials to his wife Marjorie, who died in 1992.
In 1994 Schuller received the Pulitzer Prize for the first of them, Of Reminiscences and Reflections (1993). Schuller describes it as "â€¦the first work in which I conveyed in musical terms my feelings about my life with Marjorie. All five sections contain various allusions and references to some of the great works we experienced and enjoyed together over the many years—either in performance or recordings or on the radioâ€¦."
The Past Is in the Present (1994), is a somewhat more overt memorial gesture than Of Reminiscences. According to the composer, the four-movement composition (written over ten days) is "â€¦part requiem, part jubilatioâ€¦[it] expresses a generally tranquil, reflective mood, a mixture of happy Cincinnati memories and feelings of profound loss."
The Concerto for Organ and Orchestra (1994) is in three movements, contrasting not only in tempo, mood and character, but in the way the organ functions in the overall ensemble. It is by turns participatory, blending into the orchestral texture, conversational and assertive.