Richard Danielpour is a young composer eager to make contact with an audience through his music. "Music isn't about telling," he quietly suggests, "it's about sharing." Tonight and tomorrow, local audiences can discover for themselves what he hopes to share when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra premieres his symphonic triptych "The Awakened Heart."
Commissioned for the BSO's 75th anniversary, "The Awakened Heart" is scored for large orchestra and is dedicated to conductor David Zinman. The work's three movements suggest an inner-journey of discovery that leads from darkness to light. This idea runs throughout Danielpour's compositions, which include three symphonies and two piano concertos.
Anyone expecting music of some hazy mystical nature, however, will be disappointed. "The Awakened Heart" is vividly colored and full of aggressive, edgy rhythms. "If music doesn't make an impact on some physical level, then it's not really communicating. For that reason, I write at the piano to evoke the physical relationship of enjoying music," says the Julliard-trained composer.
His earlier experiences as a pianist provided the source of his sense of the physicality of music. "I grew up as a pianist, so writing music and playing it are two parts of the same thing for me. It's like what you see with jazz musicians; a composer cannot be disconnected from what it physically takes to make a sound."
Growing up in a family of artists also influenced Danielpour's music. His mother is a sculptor, his sister is a writer and his father is a businessman and poet. Danielpour says that extra-musical associations are inevitable in his work. Literary allusions abound in "The Awakened Heart."
Each movement is subtitled with references to the philosopher Heidegger, the Buddhist writer Trungpa, and poets Theodore Roethke and Dylan Thomas. A more unusual reference is placed in the second movement "Epiphany." The agitation of the first movement gives way to an introspective calm marked by birdcalls. One of which, intended as a riddle for Zinman, is the Baltimore oriole.
Despite the number of philosophical and emotional issueexplored in his music, Danielpour insists that they are not the only way to understand it. "My music concerns the duality between the public and the private, as well as the urban and the natural. I am interested in how to resolve that duality into peace and light. All I can do is stand on my own two tonal feet and hope that it is relevant to someone."