Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s innovative semi-staged concert production of the complex, rich and fanciful two-act opera, Haroun and the Sea of Stories deserved more than the single Boston premiere performance Saturday at Jordan Hall. The multiple levels and nested plots of the story have so much depth that listeners need multiple iterations fully to appreciate the work. Based on the children’s novel by Salman Rushdie, with 12-tone music by the contemporary American composer Charles Wuorinen and intricate libretto by James Fenton, a renowned British poet and friend of Rushdie, this satirical 2004 work was created in the post 9-11 era, yet it is even more than relevant to our times. Opera News entitled a conversation about the New York City Opera’s opening night as a “Fearsome Fairyland;” their writer Leighton Kerner had interviewed Wuorinen and Rushdie together, and that seems apt. Gil Rose made use of all of the score’s electricity, eerie sounds, fright, joy and fancy to go along with a production replete with bright costumes, mechanical birds, water genies and beautifully bizarre beasts.
Those of you who are faithful Schmopera readers will likely recall that, when I reviewed Brokeback Mountain at the conclusion of last year’s New York City Opera season, I pointed at the paradox of Wuorinen’s highly dissonant score used to depict a romance, and the ways that paradox works in that opera’s favor. At the time, I figured it was a logical choice, considering how Annie Proulx’s prose worked to set up such a paradox.
Once again, my list includes a release from the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s ongoing and indispensable series of recordings. I’ve long enjoyed Peter Child’s excellent music and have reviewed a past album of his chamber music. This release of his orchestral works is anchored by a particularly strong piece, Shanti, which gives the album its title.
With their now customary elan and enterprise, Gil Rose and Boston Modern Orchestra Project enlightened, stretched, and amused the audience Friday evening with its concert in Jordan Hall. “Trouble” reflected at least two nuances of the programming: an engaging work of that very name by Vijay Iyer (b.1971), played fearlessly and flawlessly by guest violinist Jennifer Koh, and a 1966 example by Lucas Foss’s Cello Concert (1966), played equally stunningly by Opera Boston’s principal cellist David Russell.
Oftentimes, music is perceived foremost as an exploration of harmony — how different sounds work mutually, usually conjunctly, and always carefully to create a pleasing, uncontroversial sound. Yet music is as much, if not more so, about its contrast as it is about its homogeneity: It explores the sonic relations between consonance and dissonance, between order and chaos, between sparseness and abundance.
Essential in its role as the major large orchestra in Boston for the music of living composers, Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) stayed true to form at Jordan Hall on Friday, where Gil Rose took the podium for “Time Release.” This first concert of the season included the music of Steven Mackey, Hannah Lash, and Harold Meltzer, most of whom were in attendance. This concert was part of the third annual Boston New Music Festival, a celebration of new music through the collaboration of Juventas New Music Ensemble and other local new music groups; BNMF continues on October 26th with Kadence Arts and the start of another Boston Opera Collaborative’s “Opera Bites” cycle.
The deep, milky gongs of Lou Harrison’s American gamelan slowly chime as a violin soars among and above in tender elegy, singing just for you. Then light, lucid bell-like sounds enter, making this musical sky more and more densely starry, in an expansive yet deeply intimate meeting of cultural traditions that I find more moving by the day.
This album was my introduction to the music of Peter Child. Like Lindberg’s works, Child’s music is multi-faceted and adaptable to whatever idea is at hand. The wild and exuberant Jubal is essentially a symphony-concerto for orchestra,
compressed into one 15-minute movement.
This album was my introduction to the music of Peter Child. Like Lindberg’s works, Child’s music is multi-faceted and adaptable to whatever idea is at hand. The wild and exuberant Jubal is essentially a symphony-concerto for orchestra, compressed into one 15-minute movement. Adirondack Voices consists of settings of folk songs that were brought to America from UK and spread through Adirondack logging communities. These aren’t simply transcriptions: the textual content of each song informsthe musical content.
Jeremy Gill’s music has a stylistic complexity and dramatic richness that rewards attentive listening. Jeremy Gill: Before the Wresting Tides, a trio of works by Gill for solo instrument and orchestra, performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Gil Rose, displays an especially broad range of mood and energy.
The next time you see a magpie in the sky, I hope you'll remember Four Saints in Three Acts.
That there are a prologue and four acts, and 18 saints — maybe 19, depending on how you count — needn't detain us.
What we have here is a collaboration between an aesthete Southern Baptist out of Kansas City and an American writer living in Paris whose works people talked about and no one understood.
In 2016, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose, performed Four Saints in Three Acts, producing a terrific recording. The text and music are addictive, as I'm sure Thomson intended them to be. (Find the recording on Amazon and ArkivMusic.)
The three works by Peter Child on this new release demonstrate the MIT composer’s remarkable stylistic diversity. Billed as a concert overture, “Jubal” packs the material of a four-movement symphony into a 15-minute span, filled with whirlwind motivic development, dense harmonies, and orchestra writing of Mahlerian exuberance.
David Del Tredici's name is closely associated with Lewis Carroll’s. Del Tredici’s nine major Alice in Wonderland works, written between 1968 and 1996, were paradoxically daring for their use of tonality during an era of serialist snobbery. After studies at Princeton in twelve-tone composition, Del Tredici slowly moved toward his trademark neo-Romantic style, which he felt was better suited to the Victorian nonsense texts of his favorite author. Child Alice, a 1980 Pulitzer winner, marks the apotheosis of this development.
Composers who were born in China, studied music both in their homeland and in the U.S., and remained here to build their careers have become a distinct current within the chaotic ocean of 20th- and 21st-century American music.
Composers who were born in China, studied music both in their homeland and in the U.S., and remained here to build their careers have become a distinct current within the chaotic ocean of 20th- and 21st-century American music. Now spanning three generations, these composers write music too diverse to be regarded as a cohesive stylistic school: Some mix Chinese and Western instruments, others write exclusively for Western ensembles; some draw on Chinese folk themes, others favor a bracing post-tonal acidity, and still more are neo-Romantics.
Paul Moravec’s ambitious The Blizzard Voices chronicles a snowstorm that suddenly struck across the upper Midwest in 1888 and killed hundreds, including a large number of children returning home from school. It is a secular oratorio, the third of the composer’s ‘American Historical’ series of large-scale choral works, and brings an impressive battery of musical resources to the task.
Alice isn’t the only one who finds herself immersed in enchanting and wild escapades in David Del Tredici’s Child Alice. So do a soprano and especially an orchestra, who engage in glittering, bizarre and clamorous episodes that might prompt Mahler and Strauss to sit up and take notice. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s superlative recording of this massive work – six movements and more than two hours of music – certifies the piece’s status as sonic wonderland.
Continuing its impressive scheduled releases of new music as well as of overlooked twentieth century works, Gil Rose's Boston Modern Orchestra Project has recently completed two new recordings, David Rakowski's Stolen Moments and Piano Concerto No.2 and Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts and Capital Capitals. Under its eight-year-old “BMOP/sound” independent record label, these two CDs are more evidence of the significant role of Rose in providing access to important contemporary compositions
Play, a 47-minute orchestral work by American composer Andrew Norman, is the winner of the prestigious 2017 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.
In three movements, Play explores the relationship of choice and chance, free will and control. It investigates the ways musicians in an orchestra can play with, against, or apart from one another; and maps concepts from the world of video gaming onto traditional symphonic structures to tell a fractured narrative of power, manipulation, deceit and, ultimately, cooperation.