Started by Archaic Torso of Apollo, April 18, 2007, 10:18:25 AM
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Quote from: Brian on May 31, 2023, 08:00:01 AMI don't know what got it in my head yesterday to look up Christopher Rouse and read about his career - I think I was thinking about assembling an "American violin concertos" program with sequels to the Barber - but it inspired a little mini-marathon. Reading through this thread was a very interesting experience. We clearly have a small group of Rouse fans, or at least students of the composer. The past posts also delineate a clear four-act trajectory in his work:pre-1985: the young rebel, avant garde influenced1985-1995: what Apollo once called his "interesting period," with an unusual mixture of stillness, loudness, direct emotional appeals, and play1995-2010: a slightly bored composer experimenting with games, chance, name-spelling, and other gimmicks2011-2019: cancer diagnosis refocuses his energy and creates a more personal, emotional, urgent expressivenessSymphony No. 1 (1986) - a huge single-movement structure, primarily slow (though not primarily quiet). It's like the arc of the first movement of Shostakovich's Sixth, but tonally more like late (post-1986) Penderecki in its anguish and abstraction. I guess you could also draw comparisons to DSCH Eleventh (the alternations of hushed stillness and violence), Kalevi Aho (who also mostly worked later), and even Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. Rouse directly credits Shostakovich, Sibelius, Hartmann, and Bruckner as influences. Near the end (23'), there is a direct quote of Bruckner's Seventh on Wagner tubas, but the quote doesn't last as long as you'd expect. It's not like Metamorphosen. It's underpinned the whole piece's motivic content, but he just gives you a glance.Still, now I'm talking about comparison points instead of taking Rouse on his own. That's not fair to any composer. It is a gripping experience even at adagio tempo. Even when you're caught up in some of the big, violent climaxes, this is clearly a work where you have to take the long view, to sit back a bit and process the full structure. What he has to express, he expresses very slowly and patiently. In a way, this would be a difficult piece to experience live, because it requires intense focus but does not reward it too frequently. The last few minutes of hushed string prayer are truly expressive and beautiful. Quiet ending.Phantasmata (1981, 1985) - The two dates are because "The Infernal Machine" was written first, then the other two pieces later. Any can be played separately; I saw "The Infernal Machine" live when I was a teenager (note visible at the start of this thread!). "The Evestrum of Juan de la Cruz in the Sagrada Familia at 3 A.M." is for strings and percussion only and is a good example of a possible complaint about Rouse: when he isn't being very loud, he is being very quiet. He is so committed to extremes, there are not a lot of middles. This is a very soft, small, watercolor-like string piece with only a handful of big, sweeping gestures to get the attention. "The Infernal Machine" is so quick, so perpetual-motion, that it cannot really be too loud without swamping the sound. It's full of interesting textures and sounds instead, and loads of solos for everybody. "Bump," which Rouse described as a conga line in hell, is the most fun to me, and lives up exactly to that promise. Love hearing a bit of baritone saxophone.Rapture (2000) - Probably the "easiest" and most crowd-pleasing Rouse work to program at a concert. At 13 minutes, Rapture moves in one great big crescendo and one great big accelerando, from a slow, calm opening that brings Sibelius to mind with its "healing" brass prayers, to a crash-bang joyous ending full of cymbal and timpani rolls. Though the word "Rapture" does not indicate a religious inspiration, you can definitely tell some secular form of joyous experience is happening here. It's Rouse's least dissonant work, the one with the fewest surprise outbursts, and the most straightforwardly happy. Even if you lean toward the doom-and-gloom school of music, though, you'll find much to appreciate in the orchestration skill and structural craft.Violin Concerto (1991) - Well, anyone who writes a concerto for Cho-Liang Lin has my respect. One of the most underrated violinists of our time. This one is in two movements, Barcarola and Toccata, of 13 and 11 minutes. The barcarolle allows the violinist to wax rhapsodic and melodic in an environment that tosses back and forth between moods. When the violinist briefly takes a break near the beginning, a classic Rouse outburst steps in. But, although he has lots of percussion at work, he is careful to allow the violinist center stage, with writing that is more romantic than metal. There is a fast section in this first movement, and a moderately gloomy orchestral climax leading to a muted cadenza. This leads very neatly into the fast cadenza, which is full of all kinds of orchestral excitement with a great violin line laid on top. The music often tangles itself into dissonant knots and then teases itself apart again. At 3', I catch a great big quote of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. After a brief slow interlude section, the violin gets to fiddle a whole bunch at the end. This is a fun, smart, balanced piece that avoids some of the Rouseian "traps" of too-extreme dynamics and too-static landscapes. It's well-made for concert display. I do wish that there was a little more "explanation" to the structure of the finale, in the end sequence where we go slow violin solo, orchestra suddenly speeds things up, fast violin solo, ending. It does feel like he realized he didn't have enough solos and just tossed them all in at the end. But at least they're fun (and incredibly hard!).Der gerettete Alberich (1997) - Even though this is programmed at the start of the CD, I saved it to the end out of dread, based on Apollo's posts above. It is a Wagner pastiche that starts with the famous ending of the Ring operas and ends with the famous beginning. Sure enough, silliness starts immediately, as the big opening Wagner quote is immediately followed by a solo cadenza that sounds like the percussionist is trying and failing to start an old-timey car. Maybe a Model T. The rest of the movement is at least mostly sober, just with a continual running percussion commentary.Percussion concertos are much, much more fun in person because of the visual elements of both the playing and the scampering around between instruments. Here, since that element is not present, you don't really get that effect. You could easily listen to the piece on CD and imagine it's the work of 3-4 percussionists running around. Slow movements are also a problem. Here, though, Rouse creates his own trouble by having the slow movement lead straight into the finale - which begins with a rock/salsa outburst, soloist perched on a rock drum set. It's very silly indeed, and then leads into a section where Wagner quotes, awakened with rage perhaps by the sacrilege of the salsa bit, return with vengeance.In general, like Apollo, I find the piece rather silly, although at least I don't know enough about Wagner to be offended The finale, oddly, is most compelling to me, because I constructed the mental narrative of Wagner awakening from the dead to punish Rouse for his rock/pop silliness. The music perfectly fits that little image. Plus, there's a cadenza, and me like when drum goes bang. Overall, though, this is definitely less substantial than some of the other music I heard today. Maybe not less substantial than the violin concerto, actually - just sillier.
Quote from: relm1 on May 31, 2023, 05:30:19 PMI've heard multiple Rouse performances including No. 1 with Christoph Eschenbach/Houston Symphony live. It was fantastic. I don't know why you would say "...this would be a difficult piece to experience live, because it requires intense focus but does not reward it too frequently." Not at all. It was very well received and full of immediacy. Also quotes of Allan Pettersson.
Quote from: Archaic Torso of Apollo on September 01, 2023, 06:21:27 PMI found out that Rouse wrote an Organ Concerto. I hope it'll be recorded - all I could find was the finale, on YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxV1T3IrJsM
Quote from: relm1 on September 02, 2023, 06:35:12 AMI heard it performed; it was fantastic! Dark, menacing and powerful! Definitely hope it gets a good recording.
Quote from: Archaic Torso of Apollo on September 02, 2023, 07:17:04 AMHe's been a consistently good concerto composer. Where'd you hear it, BTW?
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