I will say at once that I was so mightily impressed
with Flagello’s Missa Sinfonica
and Rosner’s Symphony
No. 5 on Naxos
that I included that recording in my six-best-choice for 2008. With
that in the background I greeted this release with eager anticipation.
I should say at once, however, that this music, by Flagello and Rosner
does not make for comfortable or comforting listening.
Flagello’s Symphony of the Winds
is another highly emotional
and often disturbing work. Although bereft of the nuance and subtleties
that a full symphony orchestra could bring, Flagello nevertheless imaginatively
and quite daringly uses the colours of his wind band, including a percussive
array, to splendid effect. He impressively evokes the sense of the three
movements: 1) ‘The torrid winds of veiled portents’; 2)
‘Dark winds of lonely contemplation’ and 3) “The winds
of rebirth and vitality”. The second movement marked Aria
is particularly striking making inspired use of bells, clarinet and
piccolo. I was reminded very much of Respighi’s Roman trilogy
again is very inventive in its harmonies
and colours - this time we hear telling use of bass, snare drums and
triangle. It is, one might surmise, a spiritual journey. There’s
a sinister, despondent and ultimately mournful march. Even that hint
of sanguine light is sadly dashed in the crushing chords at the end.
for saxophone quartet is Merlin Patterson’s
witty transcription of Flagello’s Introduction and Scherzo, originally
scored for accordion.
The most substantial Flagello piece here is his last completed work,
his three-movement Concerto Sinfonico.
It is consistently anguished,
dark and tempestuous. One cannot help but wonder if this mood was prompted
by the progress of the physical and psychological damage wrought by
the degenerative disease that would eventually kill him. The Concerto
was originally conceived for orchestra with Saxophone Quartet. It was
this version that was introduced to the arranger Merlin Patterson. The
Allegro non troppo
opening movement begins in a relentlessly
driven mode that almost culminates in hysteria. Devilry and chaos rage
against serenity - of sorts. The writing for the saxophones in unison
and against each other is forceful and imaginative. The central Lento
movendo: quasi alla barcarola
central brings an uneasy peace. Even
that is overtaken by malevolent spirits stalking their way through a
turbulent, pounding episode which culminates in a spine-chilling explosion.
The grotesque third movement allows this malevolence to continue. After
a brief episode of calm, chaos returns - all hope gone.
Rosner’s ‘Trinity’ Symphony is something of a mystical
triangulation - looking at spiritual mysticism from three different
and perhaps opposing viewpoints. Rosner admits, “While I believe
in fairly complex structures, rich orchestration, and some intensity
of drama and mood, I still believe in traditional melody, harmony and
counterpoint. I suppose the ‘neo-archaic’ aspect derives
from the fact that I MUCH prefer the modes and progressions of music
that is 400 years old to that which is 200 years old.” All these
attributes: colour, drama and strikingly complex harmonies are in evidence
in Rosner’s Symphony No. 8. He claims that his first movement,
‘Ave Maria’, resembles the Renaissance style, and is devout
in character whereas the second movement, ‘Le Rondeau du Monsieur
le Diable’ is devilish; its impulse dating back to the 14th
century or earlier. “Mysticism of numbers and ‘music of
the spheres’ take over the finale, ‘Pythagorus’ where
parts move in cross rhythmic patterns… with slow majestic chorales
to the fore.”
Challenging music: Flagello - stark and uncompromising; Rosner - bold
and intensely dramatic. For the adventurous.