In 1992, one of America’s most promising young composers was tragically killed in an automobile accident. I didn’t know much about Stephan Albert before I caught his “To Wake the Dead” on Art of the States. I listened to this splendid song cycle with lyrics pulled from Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: a revelation. Albert was an immense talented artist. His style is demonstrably influenced by Stravinsky, Ives and also Sibelius. Albert’s reverence for musical rhythm of Joyce’s language led him to create some of the most outstanding masterpieces of the end of the 20th century, such as his First Symphony “RiverRun“, which excited Rostropovich at the premiere. On my YT channel I uploaded the recording by the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, under Paul Polivnick. “RiverRun” is the very first word of the first sentence of Finnegans Wake. The work was not meant to be programmatic itself, but the lusty and moody ambience evoked seems to describe Ireland’s Liffey River stream which Joyce held so dear. According to me, one of the most interesting thing of this work is definetely the orchestration of such plush harmonies. This music is poles apart 80’s New Complexity. I don’t like to label it as New Semplicty or Neo-Romanticism or Post-modern. This music is the elusive human pursuit of the Sublimity. It doesn’t need any label.
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