Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Christoph von Dohnanyi And The Los Angeles Philharmonic Perform Sir Harrison Birtwistle's "Night's Black Bird" With Shades Of Black

... "Many in Britain hail Birtwistle as England's greatest living composer, but he has always been a hard sell in America. Every now and then, our orchestras — Cleveland more than most — attempt one of his dark, bulging scores. His impressive operas, however, are entirely ignored here. You'd think someone on this side of the pond would be tempted at least by "The Second Mrs. Kong," in which King Kong pursues Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring. What could be more Hollywood than that?

Birtwistle may scare Americans with his ineffably spooky harmony or with the way history — music, art, literature — weighs heavily upon him. John Dowland's gloomy Renaissance lute piece "In Darkness Let Me Dwell" inspired "Night's Black Bird," which was written for the Cleveland Orchestra in 2004....

Living in a different climate might help draw a listener into this music, but Birtwistle does have a remarkable ability to paint shades of black with an orchestra. He's got his distinctive sound. It's a heavy one. But he also has a unique talent for levitating his thick string chords, his grumpy or growling brass and his angrily chirping winds in the night air.

The web of melodic material in "Night's Black Bird" never quite comes into focus. Something is stirring, but you don't know what it is, which is what makes Birtwistle so fascinating — and so frightening." ...

Mark Swed "Commingling of worlds old and new" L.A.Times February 18, 2006 via latimes.com

Black Swan [Cygnus atratus]

Photo credit: www.cogsci.indiana.edu/.../ bio/zoo/swanblac.htm With thanks.


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