Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Paul Griffiths writes about Elliott Carter's Oboe Concerto (1987), "Expressing what the composer has called 'widely varying, mercurial moods,' the oboe sings from one end of this work to the other. Its songs are seconded by a concertino group of four violas plus a percussionist, while the main orchestra (still chamber-sized) 'opposes their flighty changes with a more regular series of ideas, usually on the serious side, sometimes bursting out dramatically'. The piece broadly follows the usual fast-slow-fast pattern of concertos, with the soloist challenged in the 'slow movement' by the trombone — but not for long before oboistic playfulness and expressivity win through. Paul Sacher commissioned the work for Heinz Holliger, who gave the first performances at the time of the composer’s eightieth birthday." Watch a performance by oboist Nicholas Daniel and the BBC Symphony Orchestra . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

This week Hubert Culot (MusicWeb International) reviews an RTE Lyric recording of orchestral music by Irish composer Seóirse Bodley . . . "Although he is one of the most distinguished Irish composers of his generation, Seóirse Bodley's music is still largely under-represented in recordings - so, this release is most welcome. The three works recorded here [A Small White Cloud Drifts Over Ireland (1976), Chamber Symphony No. 1 (1964) and the Symphony No. 2 (1980)] span some fifteen years of his long and busy composing life, thus shedding light on his stylistic progress over these years. These recordings from the RTÉ’s archives are excellent and so are the performances. This beautifully produced release is most welcome for Bodley's music has been neglected for too many years. It is to be hoped that more will follow. This music is far too good to be ignored . . ." Read more of this review and hear excerpts from this RTE Lyric recording . . . it's our FEATURED RECORDING for the week.

Newspeak is an eight-piece amplified ensemble working under the direction of composer David T. Little and clarinetist Eileen Mack. Named after the thought-limiting language in George Orwell’s 1984, Newspeak explores the grey area where art and politics mix. Through their programming, performances, and commissions, they seek to reconsider, redefine, and ultimately reclaim the notion of socially engaged music and its place in contemporary society. Embedding elements of a rock band into a classical new music ensemble, Newspeak confronts the boundaries between the classical and the rock traditions. Check them out . . . the current FEATURED ENSEMBLE at Pytheas.

Fratres (1977/1980) is one of Arvo Part's signature works from the early days of what he calls his "tintinnabuli style" (after the Latin word for 'small bells'). The work is based on recurrent harmonic progressions and rhythmic cycles that are reminiscent of the 14th-century isorhythmic motet (the most famous composer of the genre was Guillaume de Machaut). The structural backbone of Pärt’s work is provided by a sequence of rhythmic units arranged in successive groups of 7, 9, and 11, respectively. Each repeat is modified in some way so that the work becomes something like a set of variations. Watch a performance by violinist Vadim Repin and pianist Nikolai Lugansky . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Explore, Listen and Enjoy!
Vinny Fuerst
Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music

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