Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Albuquerque Symphony Performs Warner Hutchison’s ‘The Desert Shall Bloom as the Rose’
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- American composer, Warner Hutchison, is a New Mexico treasure. As former Department Chair at New Mexico State University, Hutchison has composed over 300 works of highly original music. Inspired by Romantic, 12-tone, choral, and Avant-garde musical movements, Hutchison’s compositions have the ability to move the listener with deep emotions, or cause one to sit and ponder highly cerebral works.
When Albuquerque Youth Symphony’s director and conductor, Gabriel Gordon, choose the repertoire for the fifty-ninth season, he spared no expense in selecting composers of the finest caliber: Shubert, Ibert, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saens, Moncayo, and Borodin among them. In the midst of this stellar line-up was Hutchison’s, The Desert Shall Bloom as the Rose.
“The area surrounding Las Cruces, New Mexico features high desert and mountains. Desert plants abound, including many varieties of cacti, and magnificent agave plants. In the spring, colorful blossoms appear, and the desert comes alive with all sorts of small creatures…A sudden summer shower swells small gullies and large arroyos as water rushes downward across the roads and dry land. Almost as suddenly the rain stops; the sun reappears with dazzling brilliance… Another land, similar to that described above, but far from New Mexico, was given a promise thousands of years ago: ‘And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.’ (Isaiah 35:1)”
With this, the music began, taking listeners on a journey through the desert, with sweeping melodies, beautiful orchestration, and meditative motifs.
As a guest of the composer, I watched as people approached Warner after the concert, thanking him for the composition. Hutchison, with his white goatee and suit to match, smiled, humbly receiving the accolades.
I’ve had the privilege to discuss this piece—and many compositions—with Dr. Hutchison through our various chats concerning his music and life. The Desert Shall Bloom as the Rose was written in 1988, a commission by Dr. Marianna Gabbi, Music Director of the Las Cruces Symphony State University. The work was written for the centennial celebration of New Mexico State University. According to Hutchison, the composition is “descriptive of Las Cruces and its high desert and mountains.”
The Biblical allusion found within the piece is taken from the book of Isaiah, chapter 35. Isaiah 35 is a sharp difference from that of chapter 34. In chapter 34 a somber and dark picture is painted, a time of judgment and confusion. Then, in chapter 35, joy, rejoicing, and hope enter the text. Isaiah 35 discusses a time of singing, blossoming deserts, and beauty.
It’s a fitting text, really, that Dr. Hutchison chose for this marvelous piece. For in the end, this is exactly what it does: resound with a meditative and stunning praise.
To watch Dr. Hutchison discuss another of his works, Apocalypse V, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZnjEh02sng
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