Showcase Sep-Nov 2014 - page 27

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SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2014 MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA
responses. Ellen Fishbein (
Superconductor
) wrote: “The
music struck the heart immediately. Mr. Hillborg’s soft,
atmospheric opening seemed to leave no space in the Hall;
rather, it pressed on the walls and opened the ceilings
even higher.” In the view of Bruce Hodges (
Seen and Heard
International
), “Hillborg has created a shimmering landscape
of eloquence, unusual colors and mystery.” Anthony
Tommasini (
The New York Times
) found that “taken together,
the four Strand poems selected for this cycle make a
rumination on love and desire in its mysterious and acutely
real dimensions.” In the widely read blog
Opera Obsession
,
the writer even read into the settings an extension of the
poet’s name: “ … settings dependent on the strand: a line
washed by tides, a threshold, a place of encounters endlessly
repeated, yet always elusive, subject to new interpretations.”
The orchestra is large, with an especially diverse percussion
section that includes wind chimes and glass harmonica,
but it is used discreetly. Except in the third setting, the full
orchestra is barely used, and the dynamic level rarely rises
beyond
mezzo-forte
. In lieu of a description of each setting
individually,
Opera Obsession
’s astute and evocative account
should serve to acquaint listeners with the beauties and
mysteries of
The Strand Settings
:
“The strings predominated in the settings like the
pull of the tide, sometimes mimicking the mournful
wail of an electric guitar, sometimes seeming to sigh
with an almost human voice. Uncertain harmonies
and a half-declaimed vocal line, declining to exploit
the rich gleam of Fleming’s voice, gradually unfolded
into more complex orchestration, bassoons and
glass harmonica echoing the sorrow and madness of
many operatic loves, while the singer, in increasingly
wide arcs of sound, invokes a lover who is perhaps
only hallucinated, who perhaps has always been so.
The resolution apparently promised by the brighter
harmonies and bright visions of the final song in the
cycle is almost undone in its last line, in a vision not
of transcendence but of transience.”
Pietro Mascagni
Born:
December 7, 1863, Livorno
Died:
August 2, 1945, Rome
Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana
Anders Hillborg
Born:
May 31, 1954, Stockholm; now living there
The Strand Settings
t’s not often these days that a brand new work is
greeted with a cheering, five-minute standing ovation.
But that’s exactly what happened in Carnegie Hall on
April 26 of last year, when Renée Fleming and the New
York Philharmonic, with Alan Gilbert at the podium, gave
the first performance of Anders Hillborg’s
The Strand
Settings
. Tonight’s audience has the honor of being only
the second to hear what all the excitement was about,
an excitement generated by the felicitous union of highly
imaginative poetic and musical minds, interpreted by one
of the great voices of our time.
This evening’s concertgoers are also the first Minnesota
Orchestra audience to hear the work of Hillborg, a
composer who has absorbed musical traditions not only
of his native Sweden, but of others as well—notably
the English avant-garde composer Brian Ferneyhough.
His enormous range of activity encompasses music for
orchestra to film scores and pop music, with commissions
from leading orchestras across the U.S. as well as Europe.
Musicologist James Keller once wrote of him: “The
music of Anders Hillborg never lacks for highly incisive
character, but there’s no way of knowing in advance what
that character is likely to be.”
The Strand Settings
provides
a further example of music that will amaze, intrigue,
mystify, challenge and delight the ear.
He composed
The Strand Settings
in 2012 and early 2013
and dedicated the work to Renée Fleming. The four texts
he chose are the work of Mark Strand, a poet, essayist,
novelist and translator who was born on Prince Edward
Island in Canada, but has lived most of his life in the U.S.
He is a former U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of a Pulitzer
Prize, and he currently teaches at Columbia University.
The work’s first text is his poem “Black Sea”; the
remaining three are individual sections from
Dark Harbor
,
a long, 55-part poem published in 1993.
The Strand Settings
’ premiere in New York engendered not
only an ovation but considerable press and blog coverage,
much of it eloquent—and highly varied in terms of listener
sept
5
Program Notes
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