An album of orchestral works by Pulitzer-winning composer Paul Moravec, "Northen Lights Electric" was recently released on Boston Modern Orchestra’s house label, BMOP Sound. From the sparkling energy of the title track to the luscious cello concerto Montserrat, performed by Matt Haimovitz, Moravec’s music is full of cinematic sweep without predictability or sentimentality.
Northern Lights Electric, the title track on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project's 24th(!) self-released recording in five years, demonstrates just how finely matched the Project is to the album's star composer, Paul Moravec. The polished sort of pleaser that could effortlessly raise the curtain on a subscription concert, this is a symphonic poem for people who love symphonic poems.
Boston Modern Orchestra Project, continues to be persuasive advocates for American composers: both live and on CD. Under the direction of Gil Rose, BMOP is one of the few orchestras devoted to American music that regularly – and prolifically – records. Their imprint, BMOP sound, released several noteworthy recordings in 2012. Among my favorites was a double CD of John Harbison’s opera Winter’s Tale, a relatively early work that boasts a wonderfully pungent and engaging score.
The first American production of any of Michael Tippett's five operas was Sarah Caldwell's The Ice Break for the Opera Company of Boston in 1979. In 1991, BU students did The Knot Garden. This year, Opera Boston scheduled the first Boston production of The Midsummer Marriage, Tippett's first opera (completed in 1952, after six years of work). But Opera Boston folded.
Saturday night Jordan Hall was, perhaps, half full for three hours of memorable music as Gil Rose conducted Boston Modern Orchestra Project in a concert performance of Michael Tippett’s 1955 opera, The Midsummer Marriage.
Boston opera buffs were dealt a hard blow last December when Opera Boston, a company known for innovative productions of less familiar repertory, announced it was shutting down amid a financial and managerial crisis. But the company’s ambitious plans were not entirely sent to the scrap heap of operatic history: Sir Michael Tippett’s opera, The Midsummer Marriage – planned as the centerpiece of the company’s 2012 season – was reconceived as a concert production Saturday at Jordan Hall by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP).
Before a note was played, Saturday night’s Boston Modern Orchestra Project performance of Michael Tippett’s first mature opera, “The Midsummer Marriage,” generated more good will and broader public curiosity than the average season-opener. That’s because the now-defunct Opera Boston had this rarely spotted Tippett opera on its agenda long before the company abruptly folded last December.
One door closes, another opens. With the demise of the ambitious company Opera Boston last year, director Gil Rose lost a chance to explore some of the gems in the outermost reaches of the stage repertory.
Fear not. Rose simply brought one such rarity, Michael Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage—slated last season for Opera Boston but left unperformed—to his other adventurous ensemble, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. BMOP performed a semi-staged version of the mid-20th century opera Saturday evening at Jordan Hall.
Anthony Paul De Ritis is chairman of the composition department at Northeastern University in Boston. He studied with Richard Felciano and Jorge Liderman and over the summers worked with Spectralist Tristan Murail at the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau near Paris. Other significant professors included William Duckworth and Kyle Gann as an undergraduate at Bucknell University, where he also had a concentration in business administration; and he has a Masters in electronic music from Ohio University.
"The mixture of influences, references and textures is both blindingly apparent and blindingly gorgeous." – WQXR Radio
"…enterprising…" – Gramophone Magazine
"I should think that any lover of new music would really like this and most people would at least be transfixed by the creativity…orchestration is lush…wholly engaging…" –
"The performance, under the direction of Gil Rose, is a blast, hitting the score's marks with a kind of joyfully volatile precision." – New Music Box
The three works on this enterprising release showcase a genuinely American composer, Anthony Paul De Ritis, professor and chair of the music department at Northeastern University in Boston, whose music lies rooted in its determination to meld science with humanity. To do so, De Ritis draws on the resources of his acoustic-electronic laboratory and applies them with a healthy enthusiasm for engaging tunes and harmonies, lively beat and a love of Technicolor.
Questions of "real" or "fake" are dialectically put aside on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project's new recording of music by Anthony De Ritis, music in which, in a way, everything is real and fake all at the same time. Or, more precisely: this is music which is constantly, enthusiastically directing your attention to the materials out of which it’s fashioned. The manufactured nature of music, which the classical music tradition tries to misdirect away with notions of transcendence and sublimity, is here part of the whole point.
Sometimes when a theme presents itself, the best action is to run with it! This edition of the NewMusicBox Mix consists almost entirely of music for string instruments. Directly below you will find a link to download a folder containing the eight tracks of the mix. In addition, each track is streamed separately on this page, with information about the recordings and purchasing links to encourage further exploration and continued listening.
Anthony Paul De Ritis is the chair of the Department of Music and Multimedia Studies at Northeastern University. I have heard good things about De Ritis’s music and its reliance on an eclectic, crossover combination of sound sources as well his skill at writing captivating music that unfolds in real time. De Ritis had studied with Kyle Gann, with whom I am familiar and also philosophy with Richard Fleming. De Ritis is, clearly, a bit of a visionary, himself and I find all three of these pieces new, refreshing and fascinating to listen to.
Listening to Anthony Paul De Ritis's Devolution is somewhat akin to watching a Tarsem film: The mixture of influences, references and textures is both blindingly apparent and blindingly gorgeous.
Back when I was a teenager, I was obsessed with the music of Alan Hovhaness, and was also uninhibited to an extent that is a bit embarrassing in retrospect. During that period, after attending a concert of the New York Philharmonic, I forced my way back to Leonard Bernstein’s dressing room, and asked him whether he ever intended to perform anything by Hovhaness.
Some compositions by Anthony De Ritis, professor and chair of the Department of Music in Northeastern's College of Arts, Media and Design, may not appeal to all classical music fans. But that's just fine by him.
"There are people who truly hate the concept that a DJ and a symphony orchestra could meet," De Ritis explained. "People who think an orchestra should not reflect the popular music of today often dislike such combinations. But others see this as a fresh starting point, one which can get a whole new generation interested in classical music."
On Friday, May 18, The Boston Modern Orchestra Project gave its Jordan Hall audience a theme-based concert, four 20th-century works works, tied by our understanding of Apollo as "Apollon Musagè," from his role as leader of the muses. One of the muses is, of course, Terpsichore, and this is the muse underpinning the first set of pieces, 5 Greek Dances by the Greek composer, Nikos Skalkottas.
One doubts that the world will ever wholly manage to come to terms with the music of Hovhaness. The sheer volume of his output – over five hundred works including seven operas and sixty-seven symphonies, and that excludes his music before 1940 much of which was destroyed by the composer – rivals the prolixity of seventeenth century composers such as Bach or Vivaldi.