Author Topic: Christopher Rouse  (Read 21245 times)

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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Christopher Rouse
« on: April 18, 2007, 09:18:25 AM »
Recently I listened to several pieces by Rouse. After initially liking him a lot, and then not liking him very much, I'm back to liking him. I think he created some quite powerful work in the decade 1985-95. The little I've heard since that time hasn't impressed me nearly as much, though.

Specifically, I found the concertos for trombone, flute, and violin very fresh and strong pieces. He seems to have a natural knack as a concerto composer. The trombone cto. is very dark, gripping and oppressive, sort of like late Shostakovich but more dissonant and percussive. The flute cto. is very lyrical and threatens to spill into sentimentality at times, but never quite tips over. The violin cto. is more uneven, with some cheap "spectacular" orchestral effects, but still a highly entertaining piece.

On the other hand, I found his percussion cto. from 2000, Der gerettete Alberich, a total piece of shlock, which might be worth hearing once or twice just for laughs, but I can't imagine going back to it repeatedly.

Any other opinions on this composer?
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karlhenning

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2007, 09:23:20 AM »
Maybe I haven't heard the right works, former Otto . . . none that I've heard made me want to go back for more.

Offline Brian

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2007, 04:22:12 PM »
His Infernal Machine for orchestra is buckets of loud, fun, totally nonsensical insanity! Did I mention it's loud?  :)   Last year our local orchestra played it, and music director Larry Rachleff then said "We're going to play it a second time now." You could really tell what the audience thought of the work after he said that!  ;D 

It was fun even if it didn't mean much emotionally or any other -ally. My personal preference for "loud, fun, totally nonsensical insanity" is Timothy Kramer's Party Favors.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2008, 05:45:54 PM »
Having just listened for the first time to the new BIS issue of music by Christopher Rouse I thought that I might revive this thread.

I would be interested to know what other people think of Rouse. My own impressions are of a frustratingly uneven composer who seems to be unsure of which particular direction he wants to go in and who switches styles more for effect than any other more compelling reason. Perhaps I am being totally unfair and misreading him?

Before I bought the BIS disc I was familiar with the rather grim but imposing Symphony No.1(in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performance conducted by David Zinman, coupled with the extraordinary Phantasmata), the Symphony No.2 (on Telarc-Houston Symphony:Eschenbach) coupled with the gorgeously, heart-breakingly beautiful and moving Flute Concerto, the Violin Concerto coupled with the serene 'Rapture' and the fun 'Der Gerette Alberich' for percussion and orchestra(Ondine-Helsinki Philharmonic:Segerstam), and the Colorado Symphony disc with Marin Alsop conducting the Trombone Concerto, 'Gorgon' and 'Iscariot'.

The BIS disc doubles the Symphony No.1 and 'Iscariot' but adds the 2001 Clarinet Concerto. I must admit that this last piece came as rather a shock to me! It is certainly given a marvellous performance by Martin Frost but is in a much more advanced idiom. Rouse himself says "there is a silliness to this score that belies its second Viennese chromaticism" and tells us that he rolled a pair of dice every twelve bars to determine whether to introduce a passage of tonal harmony(he needed two sixes for that!).

I had thought that Rouse stood with John Corigliano and John Harbison as one of the foremost American composers of the generation aged from late 50s to 70 writing in a relatively conventional style. I like what Harbison I have heard but, as far as I am concerned, the jury is still out on Corigliano and Rouse puzzles me.

Any thoughts?

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2008, 10:58:52 PM »
Any thoughts?

I still agree with my own earlier post above, that he produced some strong stuff in 1985-95, but that he's gotten less interesting since then.

Your description of the Clarinet Cto. (especially the bit about rolling dice), as well as pieces like Alberich, imply to me that he is running out of good ideas and becoming more gimmicky. Pieces like the 2nd Symphony, and the Trombone and Flute Ctos., still sound good to me though, and I do enjoy their grim powerful atmosphere. (I was lucky enough to hear the 2nd Sym. live and it made quite an impression.)
« Last Edit: October 17, 2008, 11:01:55 PM by Spitvalve »
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pjme

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2008, 12:00:48 PM »
The trombone concerto is a very strong work- moving and original. I'll go back to the flute concero and second sumphon,y which I bought only last year.

Next month a huge work for trombone, orchestra & electronics by Serge Verstockt will be premiered, coupled with RicHard Rijvos' NY concerto - for piano & orch.
These works can be heard in "November MUsic" - a short festival for contemporary music in Ghent.

Richard Rijnvos (N): NYConcerto
Serge Verstockt (Vl): Le Pouvoir du Temps

http://www.novembermusic.be/
Vlaams Radio Orkest/ Brussels Philharmonic
o.l.v. Celso Antunes
John Snijders piano
Tom Verschoore trombone
Tom Pauwels gitaar

 

Offline Guido

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2008, 02:34:12 PM »


The concerto recorded by Yo-Yo Ma on this very fine CD is rather good, but perhaps overshadowed by the other works a shade. I like it though!
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2008, 03:08:00 PM »


The concerto recorded by Yo-Yo Ma on this very fine CD is rather good, but perhaps overshadowed by the other works a shade. I like it though!

Just bought for $1.99 on Amazon US :) Can't go wrong at that price :)

Didn't even know the disc existed! Thanks for the recommendation :)

snyprrr

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2009, 05:18:07 PM »
Rouse is the only composer I've met, at the classical music store I worked at in Baltimore, in the mid 90s. I remember he got the Petrassi 8 concerti (hmmm, come to think of it) along with other obvious "learning material." Uh, yea, THAT cool store is gone :'( :'( :'(.

Rouse is a very famous Baltimore name. I think they do real estate development. So...Rouse is the rich kid composer struggling to find his voice in an overcrowded field of rich kids. I sense he wonders why he is doing this (besides the fact that "he can").

I find him...mmm...ok...I mean, it's 2009 and everyone's a composer... but apparently he's getting the "record deals" just like any good rock star, so, good for him. But for me, he is kind of the epitome of "why do we have orchestral composers?"...I mean, the Baltimore Sym., sorry, isn't the most out there (lots of blue hairs in Baltimore)...they're going to be playing Mozart and Britten mostly...but I guess Rouse is a good networker (not that he lives in Baltimore anymore).

ok, I'll stop. I feel a polemic coming on.

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2009, 09:14:59 PM »
But for me, he is kind of the epitome of "why do we have orchestral composers?"...

If I were a composer nowadays, I wouldn't write for a conventional orchestra. That field's too crowded. I would concentrate on other types of ensembles.

In that regard I got this CD a while ago:



None of these pieces are for a normal orchestra, and they all date from Rouse's "good period" (i.e. before the mid-90s).
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Offline jowcol

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2009, 01:49:54 PM »
I got the disc with Symphony 2 and the Flute Concerto.  Just reading about him made me think it would be a match made in heaven, but  the only part the really "clicked" with me was the stirring tragic middle movement of the flute concerto.   
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2009, 02:55:06 PM »
I got the disc with Symphony 2 and the Flute Concerto.  Just reading about him made me think it would be a match made in heaven, but  the only part the really "clicked" with me was the stirring tragic middle movement of the flute concerto.   

Rouse has, I think, written some stirring music but he is-as I said above-a very uneven composer. The Flute Concerto is hauntingly, achingly beautiful though!

Offline Herman

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2009, 12:27:54 PM »

I had thought that Rouse stood with John Corigliano and John Harbison as one of the foremost American composers of the generation aged from late 50s to 70 writing in a relatively conventional style. I like what Harbison I have heard but, as far as I am concerned, the jury is still out on Corigliano and Rouse puzzles me.

Any thoughts?

And you know what's so funny. There doesn't seem to be any Harbison posts on the Composer board! After rereading The Great Gatsby I was naturally curious whether there was any mention of his Gatsby opera.

Offline Superhorn

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2009, 06:42:29 AM »
  I've been listening to Rouse's outrageous piece "Der Gerettete Alberich" (Alberich Saved") on Undine,
with Leif Segerstam and the Helsinki Philharmonic, with the dazzlingly brilliant percussion soloist Evelyn Glennie.
 This piece is a brilliant take off on Wagner, and is enormous fun, but it helps to be familiar with Wagner's Ring to appreciate it.  In this strange but delightful piece, Rouse wonders what happens to the evil and greedy dwarf Alberich after the cataclysmic end of the Ring, when the Gods and every one else have perished. The composers plays around brilliantly with motifs from the Ring, and gives the percussion soloist a chance to have a ball, playing all manner of percussion instruments, including gourds and Jamaican steel drums !
  Also, even though Rouse has yet to write any operas, I think he should definitely give us at least one,whenever possible. His music is so theatrical. Does any one have ideas for a suitable topic for a Rouse opera, and suggestions on a librettist?

snyprrr

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2010, 07:01:12 PM »
BUMP.

I'm not sure why.

Write an SQ, Chris.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #15 on: September 21, 2010, 07:12:37 PM »
I got the disc with Symphony 2 and the Flute Concerto.  Just reading about him made me think it would be a match made in heaven, but  the only part the really "clicked" with me was the stirring tragic middle movement of the flute concerto.

This just proves my case what looks good on paper doesn't always measure up when a person actually hears the music itself.
 
Nothing remotely interests me in Berg in terms of description on paper, but who would've known I would end up enjoying his music?
 
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Offline lescamil

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #16 on: September 21, 2010, 08:29:38 PM »
BUMP.

I'm not sure why.

Write an SQ, Chris.

He actually had three string quartets (of which the first two are recorded and the third will be premiered soon) and a piece called Compline for string quartet, harp, clarinet, and flute. The first two string quartets are from his so-called "good period" and are very gritty pieces that should please anyone who likes works similar to his first two symphonies. Compline is a much more restrained work that is in his new sort of more tonally oriented idiom, but it is still a decent work. Not one of my favorites, though.

On the topic of Rouse's latest music, I have heard two of his most recent orchestral works and I think my faith in him has been restored. I heard his Concerto for Orchestra (performed at the Cabrillo Festival in 2008) and Odna Zhizn (performed this year at the NY Phil). The Concerto for Orchestra is a very tightly structured work with a great deal of virtuosity, not much different from his Second Symphony, particularly the outer movements of that piece, in how a small amount of material gets transformed gradually over the whole work. It is a very explosive work that reminds one of his ear splitting pieces from the 1980s. Odna Zhizn is a more personal work, but it is still in a very advanced idiom that one doesn't find in his other recent works like Rapture or the Oboe Concerto. It reminded me of his work Iscariot, in how it seemed to be one constant rhapsodic meditation. Don't give up hope on Rouse! He is still one of my favorite composers, despite the questionable works he has produced over the past 10 years. If you can, listen to the Concerto for Orchestra, Odna Zhizn, or the Requiem (this one is another massive work not to be missed).
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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #17 on: September 21, 2010, 09:21:18 PM »
On the topic of Rouse's latest music, [informative summary snipped]

Thanks for that useful post - sounds like he's found his groove again. Odna Zhizn by the way is Russian for "one life." Do you have any info as to why he called it that?
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Offline lescamil

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #18 on: September 21, 2010, 10:05:33 PM »
Thanks for that useful post - sounds like he's found his groove again. Odna Zhizn by the way is Russian for "one life." Do you have any info as to why he called it that?

It was a musical portrait of a Russian friend of his. Alec Baldwin, in his commentary about the piece for the LA Phil, actually gave a very informative explanation of the piece on the radio (I wish I could provide it). He apparently used a new musical device that he hasn't used before: he translated the name of the person into music using a letter-to-note method in the work, but apparently Rouse didn't want to reveal much else about the person to the public. I couldn't hear that in the work, but it was a nice piece anyways.
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snyprrr

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Re: Christopher Rouse
« Reply #19 on: September 22, 2010, 05:13:49 AM »
his so-called "good period"

That phrase should send shivers down any prospective Compser's spine! I wouldn't want to read that about myself, haha.