The work of Kats-Chernin’s I love best is Torque, a fantastically motoric
piece of engineering I once called a galvanizing brew - part
Piazzolla, part John Adams. But there’s plenty more to hear
and admire from this prolific and exciting composer. Her appearance
in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Australian Composer Series
is entirely right.
And so here we have
a major concert suite, Wild Swans. This is a ballet collaboration
and written for soprano soloist and orchestra. But you needn’t
know, or need to follow, the movements to realise that you’re
in the grip of a characteriser of real verve. It will add to
your pleasure to follow her succinct summaries of each of the
movements but I can assure you that your senses will play their
own most enjoyable auditory-visual games even if you turn off
the lights and submit yourself to her weaving enchantments.
The soprano’s wordless
melismas are a constant – Jane Sheldon, excellent – and soar
or croon with delicious and apposite colour. We have a “naďve”
little song trenchantly contrasted with a clod-hopping cut –
hints of John Adams. There’s festive loquaciousness where Adams
collides with the spirit of Peggy Glanville-Hick’s Etruscan
Concerto. There’s also Baba Yaga, tersely characterised, a blowsy
nightclub sax solo, nineteenth century ballet homage (Franco-Russian)
and a vein of lyricism. I won’t quote chapter and verse on the
individual movements – you’ll have much too much fun finding
out things for yourself. It’s the kind of ballet you really
would like to see.
The Concerto is
a more personal work, being inspired by the composer’s late
mother. Her mother’s love of Chopin is woven into the second
movement – the concerto is written in conventionally “big” four-movement
fashion though it’s a concise work – where there are reminiscences
of the composer. The atmosphere here is one of a certain stately
evanescence – very beautiful. The third movement has its almost
hallucinatory moments – its scherzo angularity is exaggerated
by heavy chording. There are hints here and there of Michael
Nyman but Kats-Chernin’s muse is her
own now and she sounds a very personal note in this work.
the most recent of the triptych – it dates from 2004. Here the
sombre start soon gives way to an extrovert hymnal passion surging
with energy and life force. It makes you glad to listen to it.
As with all the
performances I’ve heard so far in this exhilarating series the
TSO belies its “off-shore” status to produce “mainland” performances.
For exuberance, colour and vivacity this is one of the best
of the ten discs I’ve heard.