History is a relentless homogenizer. What begins life as a blooming, buzzing confusion, continuously evolving in manifold and unpredictable directions, once passed through the coarse sieve of history, becomes calcified, reified, downgraded from a vital, animate organism into an abject fossil. Time as one part petrification, one part putrefaction. Take the great late Renaissance polyphonists, Lassus, Palestrina, and Victoria.
Iranian-American composer Reza Vali (born Ghazvin, 1952) has been called the Iranian Bartók. This is apt not because his musical style is especially influenced by Bartók (in fact, Vali claims among his influences Wagner, Mahler, and Debussy, and I detect others as well) but because like Bartók, he’s a dedicated student and cataloger of folk song.
Martin Boykan may not be a household name, but judging from the nuanced orchestration and structural integrity of his Symphony for Orchestra, he should at least be better known. The 82-year-old Manhattan-born composer learned his craft under mid-century giants including Aaron Copland, Walter Piston and Paul Hindemith and later taught at Brandeis University. Boykan is fascinated with time. We listen to music sequentially, he says: "And since time passes slowly in music, we are immersed in a world that is richer and more eventful than ordinary life." And so goes this symphony.
Gil Rose and his Boston Modern Orchestra Project is, arguably, the source for new and lesser known modern music, especially that of American composers. Their catalogue includes Grammy-winning releases and a vast array of very interesting works that are, indeed, typically premieres or lesser known. This release of music by Martin Boykan is another great find!
Kudos, again, to BMOP for bringing more intriguing works to our attention.
Born in China in 1945 and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thomas Oboe Lee has lived in the United States since the mid-1960s. As you might I guess from these barest facts of his biography, they make for a rather heady cultural mix. As the composer himself disarmingly puts it: "The first thing people say after hearing my music is, 'Your stuff is all over the place. I hear jazz, I hear samba, I hear neoclassical and romantic things...'"
In this new recording of six of Lee's concertos, you hear all of that and more.
Thomas Oboe Lee weaves many influences into a distinctive artistic voice. Born in China to nightclub singers, he spent his teenage years living in Brazil, then moved to the United States to study composing at Harvard and the New England Conservatory. Along the way he picked up the sounds not just of bossa nova and samba, but the cool American jazz of Davis, Coltrane and Evans.
Paul Moravec’s music, for me, is consistently bracing, exhilarating and entertaining. His music is written in a style and language that speaks to the logical continuation of some of the great American masters; such as Copland, Schuman and Thomson. He has written in every genre including some recent outstanding contributions to opera. Moravec won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for the Tempest Fantasy, a chamber quartet I personally love!
For anyone not familiar with his music and curious about whether you will enjoy it or not, this disc ought to convince you!
With these two recent releases from BMOP/sound we get an attractive bouquet of concertos from a couple of America's most highly regarded contemporary composers, Thomas Oboe Lee (b. 1945) and Paul Moravec (b. 1957, see below). Lee was born in China but left there with his family in 1949, spending ten years in Hong Kong and another six in Brazil. He then emigrated to the United States in 1966, where he pursued extensive musical studies, graduating from Harvard in 1981. He's received a number of outstanding awards, and now teaches at Boston College.
All are superb, delivering performances that are not only technically perfect proving each a virtuoso in their own right, but totally committed.
Boston Modern Orchestra Project's composer-centric independent label BMOP/sound gives access to Pulitzer Prize-winning Moravec's work through this marriage of four highly personal, classical pieces. The graceful title track transforms the mystique of the aurora borealis from natural phenomenon to orchestral arrangement, and "Sempre Diritto!" is an evolving, revolving musical experience written by Moravec after getting lost in Venice, Italy.
An evolving, revolving musical experience.
As we all know, the cost of orchestral recordings is a major factor for record companies. This has forced record labels’ owners to pull up their sleeves and tackle the economic effort of the recordings: as evidenced with the New Amsterdam Brittelle composers, Snider and Greenstein or with the orchestras of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra or Louisville who have elevated their organizational standards while keeping in mind the precariousness of the old system.
The result is a powerful musical reconstruction.