Symphony No. 1 by John Corigliano Gets Its Newest Recording

Symphony No. 1 by John Corigliano Gets Its Newest Recording
The NAMES Project AIDS quilt,
courtesy National Institutes of Health
July 8 marked the release of the latest recording of Symphony No. 1, the searing, personal response of loss and remembrance by John Corigliano.

The National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic, conducted by David Alan Miller, leads off its initial recording for the Naxos label's American Classics series with the symphony on Naxos 8.559782. The orchestra is made up of elite conservatory students from the United States and abroad.

In his note for the piece, composed in 1988, Corigliano wrote, 'During the past decade I have lost many friends and colleagues to the AIDS epidemic, and the cumulative effect of those losses has, naturally, deeply affected me. My First Symphony was generated by feelings of loss, anger and frustration.

'A few years ago, I was extremely moved when I first saw The Quilt, an ambitious interweaving of several thousand fabric panels, each memorializing a person who had died of AIDS, and, most importantly, each designed and constructed by his or her loved ones. This made me want to memorialize in music those I have lost, and reflect on those I am losing. I decided to relate the first three movements of the symphony to three lifelong musician-friends. In the third movement, still other friends are recalled in a quilt-like interweaving of motivic melodies…

'In order to provide themes for this interweaving of lost friends, I asked William M. Hoffman, the librettist of my opera The Ghosts of Versailles, to eulogize them with short sentences. I then set those lines for various solo instruments and, removing the text, inserted them into the symphony.'

Corigliano won the Grawemeyer Award for Composition for the symphony. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Daniel Barenboim-led Erato recording won Grammy Awards for Best Orchestral Performance and for Best New Composition. The National Symphony led by Leonard Slatkin won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Album for its live RCA recording of the symphony released on BMG.

Learn more and listen to samples on the Naxos Podcast by Raymond Bisha.

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