Vital Weekly
July 1, 2009

It remains a mystery why certain labels send their CDs to us. Like for instance BMOP/sound. It is a difficult job to cover these two of their new releases. They fall beyond the scope we usually cover. So I will be very descriptive only on these two. But first the label itself. It is the outlet of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. They perceive it as their mission to record important classical compositions of the 20th and 21st century. These two releases may illustrate this. We are talking now of two respected American composers who are however not very well known at this side of the Atlantic. To me they are completely new. But both have long careers behind them as very productive composers. On Winged Contraption by Rakowski three compositions are documented: Persistent Memory, (1996-97), Piano Concerto (2005-06) and Winged Contraption (1991). The performances are led by Gil Rose. Piano and toy piano are played by Marilyn Nonken. Rakowski had his training at the New England Conservatory and other institutes. As a composer he made fame with his long series of piano etudes. Listening to his works on Winged Contraption it was difficult for me to connect him with other composers and traditions. To my ears his style sounded very “European.”

Also on the CD by John Harbison three works are presented: Full Moon in March (1977), Mirabai Songs (1982) and Exequien for Calvin Simmons (1982). Harbison composed string quartets, symphonies, operas, chamber and choral works, etc. Also he makes sidesteps to the world of jazz from time to time. His vocal works dominate this new CD. Full Moon in March is an opera based on an adaptation of W.B.Yeats’ play A Full Moon in March. The Mirabai Songs center around poems of 16-century Indian poet Mirabai. With the final piece Harbison wants to remember conductor Calvin Simmons who died in an accident. No doubt BMOP has a good nose for what are influential and innovative compositions in our times. And probably the compositions by Rakowski and Harbison adjust to these criteria. But as said above this is not my territory, and their music doesn’t really talk to me. (DM)