STEPHEN JAFFE (b.1954): Cello Concerto (David Hardy [cello], Odense Symphony Orchestra; Paul Mann), Homage to the Breath (Milagro Vargas [mezzo], 21st Century Consort; Christopher Kendall), Cut Time, Poetry of the Piedmont (North Carolina Symphony; Grant Llewellyn).
Catalogue Number: 06J098
Description: The two principal works here showcase a composer of eclectic origins and genuine originality. The substantial cello concerto is cast in the conventional 4-movement form, but in content, though grounded in tonality, it covers a wide range of styles, allowing the soloist ample opportunity for emotional expressiveness and bravura display. The large orchestra (with a huge and varied percussion section) is imaginatively treated as a collection of ensembles, with restrained use of tutti, thereby showcasing but never overwhelming the soloist. Homage to the Breath evokes breathing with all its metaphorical implications - energy, the labored final breath of the dying, and meditative techniques based on breathing. The music is propulsive in the first, somber and tragic in the second (in memory of the composer's mother), and lyrically eloquent in the third. Throughout, Jaffe freely and seamlessly blends elements of American music from various traditions with sophisticated compositional techniques.