THEODORE WIPRUD - Violin Concerto ('Katrina')

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THEODORE WIPRUD - Violin Concerto ('Katrina') - Ittai Shapira (Violin) - Neil Thomson (Conductor) - Royal Liverpool Philharmonic - 5060212590442 - Released: September 2012 - Champs Hill Records 043

I know the title of this new CD is American Violin Concertos and features Violin Concertos by three different composers, but the focus of this review will be aimed at the Violin Concerto ('Katrina') composed in 2010 by Theodore Wiprud (b 1958). After all, this is in fact its world première recording, and the two other concertos on this disc by Gian Carlo Menotti and Samuel Barber are presented here as re-issues dating back to 2001, originally released on the ASV label, also performed by violinist Ittai Shapira, but this time with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Thomas Sanderling. And surprisingly enough, the Wiprud is the one that, in keeping with the CD's title, sounds the most "American".

Hens pecking in the yard, the rattle of voodoo effigies strung on a chain, the distant incantation of a blues spiritual, the jazzy swagger of a big city, the eerie sound of the wind rushing through harmonicas like the rustle of leaves in a tree ... all of these subliminal images of the beating heart of New Orleans weave their way in and out of the music that is 'Katrina'. A reflection through music on what the devastating effects of that hurricane inflicted on the life and musical spirit of that city and its inhabitants. There are no "pretty" passages, as in the Barber, to be found anywhere within this work. Even its slow movement, beautifully captured by Ittai Shapira, conveys a strange feeling of loss and disillusion, but at the same time reinforces the fact that the essence of the life force behind the music itself will never die.

With traces here and there of William Schuman, Leonard Bernstein and William Russo, this concerto is quintessentially American in character. In my opinion, what composer Theodore Wiprud does best, is capture the soul of 21st century America. Tattered shambles of its former self. Hurricane Katrina merely finished off what was already crumbling away at its core. With each listen, I find myself noticing, deep within the music, remnants of strong traditions being eroded away not only by the winds of a storm, but also by the winds of time. In true concerto form and style, he imposes technical demands on both the soloist and the orchestra, while at the same time creating an expressive piece of music that evokes distant and profound memories. Captivating!

Jean-Yves Duperron - November 2012