A few months ago, Gil Rose, the founder and artistic director of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, attended a party for an art opening. During a conversation, he related during a recent interview, he told a guest that he was a musician. She replied that she and her husband were big fans of classical music—new music, in particular, was their passion. In response, Rose mentioned that he runs an institution called the Boston Modern Orchestra Project—kind of a big deal.
Perhaps this should have been a job for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, in tribute to Lukas Foss, its music director from 1981 to 1986. But it is no less welcome in these fine performances by Gil Rose and his Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Foss fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1933 and arrived in America in 1937.
By the time I became a bonafide, dedicated follower of new classical and avant garde music, that is in the early '70s, Lukas Foss (1922-2009) was at a peak in public recognition as one of the leading modern compositional voices in the USA. I am thankful for that because it gave me the chance to hear much of his work, as recordings of it were fairly plentiful and readily available. His notoriety faded somewhat in later years as did the popular attention to new music and subsequently too my undivided attention to it for a decade or so.
The recorded repertoire of the music of Lukas Foss remains somewhat small. Much of what there is has been immured in multi-disc collections or features on multi-composer albums or is available only to download. I hope that the fact that the 2008 Harmonia Mundi recording of his Piano Concertos, with Foss himself among the soloists, has fallen into the last category is not an ominous sign for new recordings of his music (HMU907243 – from eclassical.com or Qobuz, both mp3 and lossless – NO booklet).
It was Lukas Foss' Quintets for Orchestra that lingered in memory long after encountering it at the July 27 concert of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra led by Michael Tilson Thomas. As if on cue, just after the last summer review was filed, arriving in the mailbox was a new double-disc set of Foss' complete symphonies from BMOP Sound, the house label of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and conductor Gil Rose. I was soon devouring more from this unpredictable and often overlooked master.
The orchestra is a vessel for swirls of colour and animated incident in the creative hands of Donald Crockett. The three works the Boston Modern Orchestra Project perform on this new disc show the American composer fully engaged with nature, especially as experienced in his home state of California, as well as myriad emotional states. Crockett has a knack for developing musical kernels and summoning rich contrasts of atmosphere.
Lukas Foss’s short essay on composition, included with the recent release of his complete symphonies by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, says that incorporating multiple techniques makes “the resulting music more challenging. One is more likely to want to hear the piece again.” It’s a simple, insightful window into “Lukas Foss: Complete Symphonies,” which BMOP astutely performs under the baton of artistic director Gil Rose.
Jewish composer Lukas Foss has the only recording of his complete orchestral works released next week.
The double-disc set, Lukas Foss: Complete Symphonies, is performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose.
BMOP previously released Foss' cantata The Prairie, set to texts of Carl Sandburg.
Foss was born Lukas Fuchs in Berline in 1922. The child prodigy moved with his family to Paris in 1933, before heading to America four years later.
In his too-brief career, the American composer Irving Fine (1914-1962), a star pupil of Nadia Boulanger and a founding professor at Brandeis University, brought the spirit of Stravinsky’s 1940s neoclassicism into several elegantly-crafted, witty, expressive, and vividly orchestrated works. In the Toccata concertante one can hear echoes of Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, but the assimilation into Fine’s vigorous and entirely personal style is completely convincing.
American composer Irving Fine (1914-1962) died of a stroke at the age of 48, only days after he conducted the premiere of his Symphony at the Tanglewood Music Festival.
Just to show that I listen to, and enjoy, music that is not British. I recently reviewed this excellent CD of music by one of the United States great composers. As I noted at the conclusion of my review, 'this is an exciting and desirable retrospective of Irving Fine’s orchestral music.' It was first published on MusicWeb International.
Boston-born Irving Fine's (1914-1962) unfortunate demise at forty-seven deprived the classical music world of an extremely promising talent. A superb teacher and administrator, he was also an accomplished pianist, conductor and composer, who owing to his early death completed only six orchestral works. Now for the first time we get all of them on one disc with this hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0), disc from BMOP/sound in their acclaimed series devoted to twentieth century American composers (see 14 May 2014).
We'll call it in the air: 2015 is going to end up being a great year for music. The albums that have impressed us the most over the year's first six months are a varied lot. There's enormous ambition on display here, epic works crafted to bust boundaries or reshape at will (check out that three-hour debut album), but also intensity in small gestures: a pair of devastating albums about loss, two more anchored in the sounds of sisterly harmonies. As we reach the year's mid-point, take a moment to listen with us, ears wide open to a great six months of music.
Saddening news. Gunther Schuller has died at the age of 89. A musical polymath, Schuller was active as a composer, conductor, arranger, historian, educator, arts administrator and, earlier in his career, French horn player. He pioneered the concept of “Third Stream” music: works that combine influences and materials from jazz and classical music.
"Curious, isn’t it, that the last really great symphony…was Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, date 1945, exactly coincident with the end of World War Two? It is as though that apocalyptic bomb had demolished not only Hiroshima but, as a side effect, the whole tonal symphonic concept as well.
And so for the last thirty years we have had no real symphonic history."
The title of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project's superb disc of music by Elena Ruehr is 'O'Keeffe Images', which refers to her triptych of works inspired by paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe. They are wondrous pieces, abounding in sonorous awe, grandeur and imagination, as befits the images that stimulated the American composer. A similar sense of urgent brilliance pervades the three Ruehr works preceding the O'Keeffe collection.
Elena Ruehr studied with Persichetti at Julliard and Bolcom at the University of Michigan. These are all her works for orchestra.
Shimmer (1995), for strings, moves in harmonically static blocks of diatonic counterpoint. It is a glowing (shimmering) dance with grace and a folk-like feel, elegant and Coplandesque, with a dash for minimalism for flavor.
Andrew Norman (b. 1979) studied at USC, where he currently teaches, and then at Yale. He lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, traditionally the most dangerous part of the city (I guess it's been gentrified by now). He has been a contributor to New York's Bang On a Can group as well. The combination of those locales tells a great deal about Mr Norman's work, for which he was a recent Pulitzer Prize finalist.
When Elena Ruehr (b. 1963) received her musical education (University of Michigan and The Juilliard School) in the late 1980s, melody wasn’t even considered as a part of modern music theory classes. Fortunately, one of her teachers—George Balch Wilson—recognized her gift for it. Now she sees melody as “the most complex and human of musical experiences.” Raised in a family of amateur musicians (her mother sang folk music and early jazz standards), she learned the piano at age five. Her passion as a dancer infuses her music with a distinctive rhythmic pulse.
I have already mentioned a few times here of the extraordinary work of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and its leader Gil Rose and its label (41 discs since 2008!). This time, it offers us the music of Andrew Norman, an explosive composer in his mid-thirties, which was developed during a two-year residency with the orchestra. The 46-minute Play explores brilliantly the possible modes of play of the orchestra, playing the musicians either together or against each other, for example.