Tod Machover’s Hyperstring Trilogy, on the Oxingale label and by some distance the most exhilarating disc release of these otherwise drab summer months, sets off memories of the not-too-distant past and stirs up all kinds of hopes for a not-too-hopeless future.
The music on this disc is so good, you’d be tempted to proclaim it one of the best new-music discs of the decade were the pieces not 10 or more years old.
The M.I.T-based Machover spent the late 80’s and early 90’s developing hybrid electronic instruments, though this disc shows his greatest talent is that of a composer. More than Pierre Boulez, Machover composes for electronically generated sound as if it were his first language.
Artistic Quality: 10 Sound Quality: 10
Lukas Foss composed Griffelkin for the NBC television network, which broadcast the opera on November 6, 1955. Although Griffelkin is based on a children’s fable, Foss wanted it to appeal to listeners ages “8 to 80,” so he wrote in a very accessible though not simplistic musical style—and the story has enough of a mature subtext to interest adults as well as children (as all good “children’s” music must).
New Jersey-born Chasalow is Professor of Music at Brandeis University, so unsurprisingly the nine works presented on this varied and satisfying album reference a diverse range of influences and styles, from the post-modern reworkings of Beethoven and Brahms idioms (1998’s string trio Yes, I Really Did) to Jerome Kern (Crossing Boundaries), Dizzy Gillespie (Out of Joint), Eric Dolphy (In A Manner of Speaking) and the doyen of American academia Milton Babbitt.
Black Sounds, written for a ballet depicting the act of murder, is an unrelentingly intense work that packs a good deal of violence into its 17 minutes. George Rochberg thought of the piece as an “homage” to Varèse, and indeed with its stark, near-atonal language, repetitive phrases, and broad, colorful percussion array, it sounds a good deal like the French/American composer’s music, including its scoring for wind ensemble.
“...if even a conductor gets lost in the dense leaves of the modern music tree, what hope is there for the rest of us? Well, [Gil] Rose’s point is partly that no one should feel threatened by any piece of music since no particular style can claim “high ground” any longer. In other words, it is perfectly valid to simply rely on our gut feelings about which types of music we like; there is no danger of thereby committing any artistic faux pas. Yet, still, how can listeners put what they hear into some kind of meaningful context amidst such a cacophony of competing musical values?
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project—as represented by the 11 players who appeared at Miller Theater under the group’s founder and conductor, Gil Rose—is extremely able and musical. Performing Bernard Rands’s three astronomical Canti of the late 1980s and early ‘90s last Thurday, Mr. Rose and his team filled the music with rich, decisive ensemble colors and magnificent solos in scores whose dominant expressive position is one of rapture, these musicians were rapturous....