SHORE Mythic Gardens. Ruin & Memory
He may be best known as having written scores for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, and those for almost all of David Cronenberg’s films, but Howard Shore (b1946) also has a sizeable output of works for the stage (notably his opera The Fly) and concert hall. Two of his recent concertos feature on this disc – both confirming that, whether in terms of formal concision or expressive understatement, Shore is a composer for whom less is more.
Ruin & Memory (2010) was written for Lang Lang, who takes on this first performance with his customary fluidity and flair. These qualities are central to a piece whose starting point was the life and musical ethos of Chopin, as reflected in its late-Classical orchestration and an emotional restraint that, in the central Largo, suggests pathos more Mozartian than Chopinesque. A pity that the finale (hardly taken Prestissimo as marked) ends with so juddering a final chord, but it does act as catalyst for the thunderous applause which ensues.
With its inspiration in three classic Italian gardens, Mythic Gardens (2014) was written for Sophie Shao – her warm and alluring cello tone well suited to music in which soloist and orchestra are even more closely integrated. The first two movements might have benefited from greater expressive contrast but the final Presto banishes any lingering wistfulness with its purposeful sense of resolution.
Sound is that of a spacious and well-defined acoustic, and it is no surprise that the booklet-notes on either work are less extensive than those on the musicians. A pity about the short duration, too, as there are numerous shorter pieces by Shore that would have been apposite as a filler.