A special eight-page section focusing on recent recordings from the US and Canada
JL Adams Everything That Rises Jack Quartet Cold Blue Music F CB0051 (56’ • DDD)
Everything That Rises (2017) is John Luther Adams’s fourth string quartet, following close on the heels of untouched (2015). In a single unbroken movement, Everything That Rises is a satellite work from his huge choral-and-orchestral composition Sila: The Breath of the World (2014), constructed from a set of ‘harmonic clouds’ (to use the composer’s term) common to both works. Like Sila, and indeed the vast majority of his output, the quartet draws inspiration from nature, especially that of the composer’s native Alaska.
However, the expressive profile of Everything That Rises is very different from the earlier work, being essentially a vast, slow-moving spiral that moves, broadly, upwards in pitch from the opening cello pedal at a truly glacial pace. The harmonic language is neither tonal nor atonal, satisfying the requirements of the ‘harmonic clouds’ rather than traditional tonal structures, though to the innocent ear its unrelenting, droning dissonance may be challenging; there is nothing of the euphonious textures of, say, … and bells remembered … for chiming percussion (2005) or his orchestral tone poem The Light that Fills the World (1999-2000), nor the furious energy of the piano solo Among Red Mountains (2001).
The string quartet medium is traditionally one of dialogue between the four equal players but while there is a community of purpose in Everything That Rises I do not really hear the progress of the four independent lines as a dialogue, or even a discourse. The music is rather a phenomenon or force of nature, moving inexorably along its path with the listener relegated to a bystander. It does not make for comfortable listening, although it is mesmerising on its own terms. Nathaniel Reichman’s recording is beautifully clear, with depth. Guy Rickards talks to ... Mikel Toms The British conductor discusses his new recording of orchestral works by Douglas Knehans
How did you discover Knehans’s music? I first came across Douglas in his capacity as a record producer. He’s always been incredibly generous and supportive of young and emerging composers and the focus was initially on recording their work, but it quickly became apparent that Douglas has a really impressive and original body of work of his own and that we needed to record some of it!
How would you characterise this music? Much of Douglas’s music is rooted in the natural world, particularly in the elemental forces that shape the planet. His works deal with, among other things, the movement of the atmosphere, the birth of continents, plate tectonics and ocean drift. At the same time, they occupy spaces that are easily recognisable to classical audiences: Unfinished Earth is a symphony, Cascade (about the movement of water) is a concerto for orchestra, Tempest (about the wind) is a flute concerto and Drift (the movement of
Berlioz Grand Messe des morts (Requiem), Op 5 Robert McPherson ten The Choral Arts Society of Washington; Virginia Symphony Chorus and Orchestra / JoAnn Falletta Hampton Roads F 011 (77’ • DDD • T/t) Recorded live at Chrysler Hall, Norfolk, VA, May 2017
The ideal way to take in the wonders of the Berlioz Requiem is to attend a performance in a concert hall or church, where the work’s massive forces –
clouds) is a concerto for oboe and strings. So we have this idea of huge, fundamental forces being contained within classical forms, which sets up a really compelling dynamic. These pieces can sometimes feel like an almighty struggle to contain the uncontainable.
Does the scale of the writing reflect this? It does – Unfinished Earth uses a vast orchestra and the orchestration is at times monumental. At other times, the focus is smaller-scale, on specific but immediately evocative sounds. It’s exciting stuff!
Will you record more of Knehans’s music? We plan to record Douglas’s Violin Concerto and Viola Concerto next – watch this space!
including four brass choirs strategically placed – can be heard in all their jolting and subtle glory. But the score also makes its transcendent impact felt via recording, as in this affecting and bold account under the baton of JoAnn Falletta. The performance was captured during a concert at the Virginia Arts Festival in May 2017 at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk featuring the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, The Choral Arts Society of Washington and tenor Robert McPherson.
Falletta, the orchestra’s music director, makes sure the score’s fervent pages receive full, dramatic justice. When the brass choirs and timpani make their first gramophone.co.uk
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