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CD Review

Charles Denler

Reference 706
  • Portraits of Colorado, An American Symphony #1
  • Six Variations for Violin & Piano *
* Yumi Hwang-Williams, violin
* Charles Denler, piano
Colorado Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Scott O'Neil
Reference Recordings FR-706 HDCD
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In my short time as a writer for Classical Net, I've had the pleasure of talking to artists, producers, and even the composers themselves. As someone who makes music a major part of his life, I try to take every composer's vision and art with the greatest seriousness. I listened for a long time to this disc, because I wanted to understand the vision here. Charles Denler's introductory note says that he broke his Symphony #1 up into pieces to accommodate today's listener, the listener to short songs and iTunes playlists. I disliked that right off the bat; I felt that the piece could turn choppy, and furthermore I personally feel like music should last as long as it needs to in order to speak to whoever is listening. I say this with all respect to Mr. Denler, who really has written some very beautiful music.

It has been over 20 years since my last trip to Colorado, but this music paints a vivid and deeply affectionate picture of the incredible beauty on display there. I purposefully declined to read the movement titles, to try and allow the music to talk. It does, and clearly. Each movement is under five minutes, but every one has a distinct character, with a majestic and touching theme running through the entire piece. It's very much in keeping with Denler's need to appeal to the masses. Part traditional symphony, with echoes of a film score, the solo contributions, choral work, and additional instrumentals are all superb. The Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Chorus pour their hearts into this music, and the sonic quality is naturally as clear and crisp as mountain air. The six variations for violin and piano share the same theme as the symphony, and are lovingly rendered by Hwang-Williams and the composer. Say what you will about Denler's approach, it's very hard to argue with the end result.

Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman

Trumpet