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Rainbow Connection

14 AUG 09 JASON SERINUS

Six years after its release, Robert Spano's choice of repertoire for his spectacular recording of American music, Rainbow Body, remains proof of the conductor's prescience.

Complementing two classics of the 20th century, Samuel Barber's moving and dramatic Symphony No. 1 (in one movement) and Aaron Copland's timelessly evocative Suite from Appalachian Spring, Spano and the Atlantic Symphony present two remarkable works by youngish composers currently active, Christopher Theofanidis (b. 1967) and Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962).

Theofanidis, who was born in Dallas, won the 2003 Masterprize for the work Spano conducts, Rainbow Body. Now considered in some quarters as the most-performed orchestral work by a living composer, Rainbow Body's shimmering cascades of colors find their basis in the medieval chant "Ave maria, O auctrix vite" by Hildegard von Bingen. Although it is doubtful that the pious nun would have ever imagined such dramatic trumpet fanfares at the end of any of her spiritual declarations, Theofanidis' evocation of the divine is in total harmony with von Bingen's work.

Equally special is Higdon's gorgeous Blue Cathedral. Written in tribute to her late younger brother, Andrew Blue, its at times mystical, other times dramatic evocations of deeper mysteries have made it Higdon's most performed composition. All four pieces benefit from the clarity and wide dynamic range afforded by Telarc's DSD recording process, and the hybrid SACD's option of high-resolution surround sound. Gorgeous stuff, melodic and romantic to the core.