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Spanning the last two thirds of the twentieth century, this collection of previously recorded orchestral works represents the ongoing efforts by American composers, Christopher Theofanidis, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland and Jennifer Higdon, to engage and communicate with their concert audience. "Rainbow Body is a rich metaphor for the varied tapestry of American music," says Robert Spano, Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. "Represented here are two masters and their masterpieces, as well as two relatively new voices on the American musical landscape. Each of these composers has a unique voice, yet they are all four somehow distinctly American."
Christopher Theofanidis' Rainbow Body is based on one of Hildegard von Bingen's chants "Ave Maria, O auctrix vite" ("Hail Mary, source of life"). It begins in an understated, mysterious manner, calling attention to some of the key intervals and motives of the piece. Although the piece is built essentially around fragments of the melody, it still returns several times throughout the work, as a kind of plateau of stability and peace. "Rainbow Body has a different sensibility from the Hildegard chant," says the composer, "with a structure that is dramatic and developmental, but I hope that it conveys at least a little of my love for the beauty and grace of her work."
Samuel Barber met with the Italian conductor Bernardino Molinari in Rome in 1936. Molinari was so enthusiastic about Barber's Symphony No. 1 that he premiered the symphony a few months later with his orchestra in Rome. In America, Artur Rodzinski conducted the symphony during 1937 in Cleveland and New York as well as the Salzburg Festival. Six years after the original composition of the symphony, Barber incorporated his further thoughts into a revision, bringing the composition to its final form. Barber's Symphony No. 1 is one continuous movement, divided into four sections, much like the traditional movements of classical symphonies by Mozart and Beethoven.
Aaron Copland's music has been considered quintessentially American with its spare and open harmonies and yearning turns of phrase. Appalachian Spring is one of his most successful works, partly due to Martha Graham's commissioning it for her dance company. The most famous section of Copland's score is the Variations on a Shaker Melody, "Simple Gifts." Leonard Bernstein once wrote, "Aaron walks a true path of plainness. That's one of his biggest words—plain...It goes with Appalachian Spring and Our Town, which I think of as a self-portrait of Aaron."
Jennifer Higdon's blue cathedral was commissioned by the Curtis Institute of Music to commemorate its 75th anniversary. In Ms. Higdon's words, blue cathedral represents "a journey where the listener would enter from the back of the sanctuary, floating along the corridor amongst giant crystal pillars, moving in a contemplative stance...As the journey progressed, the speed of the traveler would increase, rushing forward and upward...This is a story that commemorates living and passing through places of knowledge and of sharing and of that song called life."
Robert Spano is recognized internationally as one of America's outstanding conductors, acclaimed for leading vital and distinquished performances as well as for the breadth of repertoire he explores and his consistently imaginative programming. Throughout his career, he has conducted nearly every major North American orchestra. His recordings with Telarc include Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, Russian Easter Overture (CD-80568) and the critically acclaimed and three-time Grammy Award winner, Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony (CD-80588).