Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Bracing, Vividly Uneasy New Album of Eric Nathan Orchestral Works

“I compose for my music to be performed live and to be experienced from beginning to end,” Eric Nathan explains in the liner notes for the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s new album of his compositions, The Space of a Door, streaming at Spotify. He’s hardly alone in that viewpoint – and these days, it’s against the law in New York to perform most of what’s on the record. If we want our culture to survive, we have to end the lockdown ourselves. Nobody’s going to do it for us.

Back to the music: the album is bookended by both a full symphonic arrangement and a chamber orchestra version of the bracing, persistently uneasy Paestum, inspired by the ruins of a Greco-Roman temple. The large-ensemble version begins with a bang – literally – which sets off an agitated, swirling flock of birds, or so it would seem. Conductor Gil Rose brings out a lustrous calm which is all the more suspenseful in contrast to the composer’s unwillingness to let it settle in: those ruins obviously left an impact. In both versions, the disquieting bustle returns with a fanfare and ends with unresolved Messiaenic clarinet.

With its lushly acidic close harmonies, slow doppler-like phrases, tense flutters and bubbles, Omaggio a Gesualdo has less in common with pre-Renaissance Italy than Henryk Gorecki (with some spiky Bartok thrown in for spice).

The album’s title track begins with a robust nod to Brahms but quickly shifts to an uneasy lustre and decays to a suspenseful stillness before Rose pulls one of many sudden upward spirals – a persistent trope here – out of the calm again. In many ways, the shifts between atmospherics and bordering-on-frantic activity mirror the album’s opening and closing segments.

Timbered Bells is a triumphantly brassy, regal shout-out to the distinctive echoes off the hills surrounding the Tanglewood complex, The triptych Missing Words has similarly playful origins, in this case the illusion of motion that passengers on a stopped train experience while watching one that’s actually moving – and also the joys of romping through piles of autumn leaves. Glissandos and razorwire microtones build vividly dissociative ambience. Big brass gestures answered by ghostly flickering strings pervade the middle miniature and the coyly furtive conclusion.

Flutter and bluster – Nathan really likes those clustering high winds and reeds – stand out in front of increasingly somber ambience and dramatic, windswept counterpoint in Icarus Dreamt, a Matisse reference  Nathan’s repertoire has been well represented by major new-music ensembles in concert here in his hometown in recent years; it’s good to have this record to spread the word about this distinctively compelling composer’s work

August 21, 2020 - Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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