MICHAEL GANDOLFI’S music has some of the rigor of the mid-20th-century atonalists, but it also draws on the richness of melody and timbre prized by the neo-Romantics. You would not put his work firmly in either category, and that’s probably for the best, since much of its appeal is in the ease with which it moves between those poles. One moment you’re taken with its braininess, its structural logic and textural intricacy; the next you’re struck by the flow of fresh ideas, vivid orchestration and rhythmic vitality, all of which give it a visceral punch.
The three scores included here — all played with warmth and precision, and beautifully recorded on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s own label — offer a good overview of Mr. Gandolfi’s sensibility. Points of Departure (1988), an essay on the beauty of angularity, transforms themes couched in the clichés of academic serialism — jumpy, zigzagging lines — into likable characters within a bracing and sometimes dark-hued musical drama.
Mr. Gandolfi has a great ear for effect: the glissandos and arching violin lines in the third movement of Point of Departure are hard to resist, and they turn up again at the start of Themes From a Midsummer Night (2001), a light-spirited 10-movement suite drawn from an incidental score Mr. Gandolfi wrote for a production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. A few movements are from earlier scores — he was on a tight deadline — but they work: the comic tone painting of Bottom Brays, from Pinocchio’s Adventures in Funland (1999), suits Shakespeare’s story just as well.
Y2K Compliant (2000), the ephemeral title referring to fears that digital gadgets might stop working at the turn of the century, uses a bustling Neo-Classicism (tinged, as always, with sharp-edged modernism) to offer a tongue-in-cheek view of our mechanistic age.