George Perle didn’t come to orchestral composition until fairly late in his career. But as this new album shows, it was worth the wait. Maestro Morlot and the Seattle Symphony deliver strong, sure-footed performances. If you’ve never experienced Perle’s music before, this may be the recording to start with.

Perle developed his own version of 12-tone writing — one that remained tonal. The resulting sound is piquant and nuanced. To my ears, a lot of mid-century 12-tone works sound somewhat dated. But Perle’s music sounds fresh, vibrant — and contemporary.

The 1986 Dance Fantasy reflects Perle’s love of ballet. The work crackles with kinetic energy. It practically demands to be choreographed. It’s a great way to start the album.

The Six Bagatelles from 1965 show Perle’s mastery of orchestration. As does the Cello Concerto, written a year later. The inherent chromaticism of Perle’s “12-tone tonality” lets the composer spin out long, sinuous melodies for the cello.

The Sinfonietta I and Short Symphony were written in the 1980s. The Sinfonietta may be the lighter of the two, but it doesn’t lack for intensity.

The Short Symphony may not be long, but it’s deep. Perle’s multi-layered writing and subtle tonal colors reveal something new with every hearing.

This is volume four of Bridge Record’s Perle series. It’s my favorite to date.

George Perle: Orchestral Music (1965-1987)
Seattle Symphony; Ludovic Morlot, conductor
Jay Campbell, cello
Bridge Records 9499