Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hilary Hahn, Part 5

This will be the last post about the music on the double CD. Today I describe the last six pieces on the second disc. I say "describe" because that is really all that I have been doing. After this I will have a final post that will perhaps do some actual criticism.

Elliot Sharp is an American composer and, as Wikipedia says, "a central figure in the avant-garde and experimental music scene in New York City since the late 1970s." He also studied composition with Morton Feldman. He has released an enormous number of recordings with many different kinds of groups. His piece on this album is titled Storm of the Eye and it certainly is! Perhaps the most frenetic and agitato piece on the album, it sounds like an improvisation of a couple of crazy people--except for one unison passage that would be hard, not impossible, certainly, but hard to do in a pure improvisation.

Michiru Oshima is a Japanese composer known especially for her work on scores for video games, movies and television shows. Some of my commentators have been recommending these genres of music to me, so it is interesting to see one of these composers chosen for this album. The piece is titled Memories. Slightly resembling the texture of the earlier piece by a Japanese composer, Somei Satoh, the piano has gentle arpeggios underneath a wistful melody in the violin. This melody is elaborated with garlands of triplets. The music is certainly tonal and after building to a climax, returns to the opening material. There is a cadenza for the violin towards the end.

James Newton Howard is an American composer and he is known particularly for his work on film scores of which he has written over a hundred, including both of the recent Hunger Games films. He also toured playing keyboards with Elton John in the late 1970s and 80s. His film scores have been nominated for Academy awards many times. His contribution to the album is titled 133...At Least and one wonders if that is the metronome marking. It is in a quick tempo and has a kind of a 6/8 dance feel. Lots of imitation between the violin and piano. Towards the end the material is trimmed down and there is a brief violin cadenza.

One of the best-known composers on the album and one of the most familiar younger composers working today is Nico Muhly, still in his early 30s. He is American and currently lives in New York. He studied composition with John Corigliano. He moves between the contemporary classical and alternative music worlds with ease. His contribution to the album is Two Voices. This is an odd little piece, distinctive in its economy of means. Except for one brief moment just around the Golden Section point, the piano plays one note throughout. The violin has a widely-spaced line that wanders, seemingly aimlessly. It feels almost like an improvisation, though a gentle rather than furious one. This piece may reflect his recent fascination with drones.

Søren Nils Eichberg is a German composer who grew up in Denmark and currently lives in Berlin. The piece on the album, titled Levitation has a very clear unifying motif based on the notes B C D E. There are dissonant arpeggios in the piano, a contrasting modal tune in the violin and they both share that motif. The music seems to hover between tonal and atonal or perhaps we could say it is "extended tonality"? I had the feeling that perhaps Philip Glass and Erik Satie were both lurking somewhere in the background.

The last piece on the album is by Max Richter, who, despite his name, is a British composer. He is the composer who rewrote the Vivaldi Four Seasons in post-modernist fashion. He has released his own albums and written a lot of film soundtracks. The piece on the album is titled Mercy and it is a very lyric and beautiful piece indeed. Long notes in the violin float over gentle shifts in the chords in the piano. The music sounds like the slow transformations of clouds. Very good sense of the melodic phrase. In a slow triple time and very tonal.

Let's have one more photo of Hilary from the album:

And here is Hilary Hahn interviewing Max Richter.

She is a rather good interviewer, isn't she?

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