Laurence Vittes
February 1, 2015

A wonderful tensile energy operates on a subliminal aural screen behind the main episodes in Boston-based Scott Wheeler's music; perhaps they are musical particle traces of the dancers' and singers' bodies 'that are the medium for the stage composer's work', as Wheeler modestly describes himself in the booklet-notes. In fact, Wheeler turns out to be a highly effective composer of classical music by virtue of a vivid aural imagination whose ingenious, garrulous products he crafts into absorbing symphonic soundscapes that make the hip Boston Modern Orchestra Project sound great.

Wheeler counts Stefan Wolpe, Franco Donatoni, Sondheim, late Mozart, Sibelius, Schoenberg, Copland, Weill and Bruckner among his influences and cautions, 'If you hear echoes of their music in mine, it's because I learned so much from their passion and their skill.' In truth, however, his musical language is his own. it can flare up wild and romantic, but at other times, as in City of Shadows, it is delightfully rich in comic-book scurrying around and dusted with hints of Britten.

Wheeler adapts with impressive ease to the three works' different territories: City of Shadows is a chamber symphony dedicated to Kent Nagano, while Crazy Weather for two string orchestras and Northern Lights for a very large orchestra were both Koussevitzky Foundation commissions. The performances are more than authoritative. Wheeler's music has an off-kilter attitude which suits the orchestra's own cool jazz-influenced musical sensibilities; they react quickly to Wheeler's sometimes audacious shifts in mood and get to display their very outstanding chops.