The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the nation's premier orchestra dedicated exclusively to commissioning, performing, and recording new orchestral music, kick-starts its 2011-12 season with a nod to our friendly neighbor to the North, Canada. Paying homage to some of Canada's top composers, BMOP is slated to perform: Vessel by Kati Agocs; Symphony No. 2 by Colin McPhee; Letter from Mozart by Michael Colgrass; and Orion by Claude Vivier. "Unfortunately, Canadian classical music is not as well known as it should be," explains Gil Rose, Artistic Director/Conductor of BMOP. "We want to help correct this by spotlighting a few well-deserving composers and their beautiful, fascinating and moving works."
Windsor native Kati Agocs (b. 1975) is known for her original, daring and rigorous works and has been hailed for composing from the heart. BMOP brings one of her most recent pieces Vessel (2011) to Boston after its New York City premiere by the Metropolis Ensemble. Vessel features three soprano voices not only singing about vessels but, also acting as vessels themselves, in three varying languages, i.e., English, Hebrew and Latin. According to Agocs, using three languages simultaneously somehow makes sense in 2011. "It captures the polyglot, overlapping of cultures today in which different linguistic and cultural strands somehow remain distinct." Agocs maintains a composition studio in Flatrock, near St. John's, New Foundland, Canada, and served as the 2010 Composer-in-Residence for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. She currently serves on the Composition Faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music.
Like many Canadian composers in the 20th century, Colin McPhee (1900-1964) looked beyond the borders of his country for musical inspiration. Born in Montreal and raised in Toronto, he is primarily known for his adventures in Bali and for being the first Western composer to make an ethnomusicological study of Bali. The distinctive timbres of Indonesian music found their way into his own compositions including Symphony No. 2 (1957). Structurally European but audibly Indonesian, Symphony No. 2 makes use of Indonesian scales, colors and melodic gestures.
Toronto native Michael Colgrass (b. 1932) is a Pulitzer Prize- and Emmy– award-winning composer. His Letter from Mozart (1976) refers to a fictional letter that he claims to have received from Mozart. It offers inspiration for a modern treatment for an 18th century melody. According to The Blade, "the effect is like watching a Federico Fellini movie set in a freak carnival, faces leering in and out of focus in the camera, the feral sound of a calliope and human screeches penetrating your ears."
Rounding out the quartet of Canadian composers is Montreal native Claude Vivier (1948-1983). He is known for writing music with abundant melodic life which is evident in his luminous work for full orchestra Orion (1979). Written for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Orion consists of six parts all evolving around the melody - its statement, first development unravels on itself, second development unravels on itself, meditation on it, remembrance of it, and finally the melody in two parts. Orion traces a journey paralleling the composer’s own to the East. Vivier soaked up both European high-modernism while studying in Holland and Germany and ancient Eastern traditions from extensively traveling throughout Asia resulting in his own richly nuanced musical style.