German-born Chris Walden is best known as a jazz performer (he created his own big band), for his writing for film (he has scored over 40), and for his orchestral arranging (his clients are as diverse as Paul Anka, Sheryl Crow, Barbra Streisand, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). His first symphony is the first piece of absolute music he has written for orchestra and marks a move toward reaching out to a more traditionally classical audience. Walden is an expert, if somewhat conventional orchestrator; with his extensive background, he clearly has the chops to write effectively and beautifully for orchestra, but he doesn't take many risks here. The music of the symphony, whose movements are titled "Gaia" (earth), "Hudor" (water), "Aer" (air), and "Therma" (fire), is in a lushly neo-Romantic idiom, and much of it sounds like it would be fully effective in a film score. This is not a crossover piece melding elements of jazz and classical; it's a straightforward effort at creating new repertoire for the symphony orchestra. It's thoughtful music, intelligently developed, skillfully orchestrated, and clearly deeply felt, but its conventionality keeps it from making an especially strong impact. Walden has demonstrated the fertility of his imagination using traditional classical forces in his writing for chorus in his tremendously appealing Kurt Marti Suite; if he would give his imagination as free a rein in his orchestral writing, he could yet create a symphonic work of real substance. The composer leads the Hollywood Studio Orchestra in an impassioned performance.