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Monday, October 24, 2016

Varèse/"Amériques," Milhaud/L'homme et son désir," & Honegger/"Pacific 231" The Utah Orchestra Maurice Abravanel, Conductor (Vanguard)


What happens when three 20th century French composers come to America?  This is an interesting evening of recorded music, with a strong theme.  These trios of the titanic classical world come up with the impressions of America.   Edgard Varèse is almost an expressionist chaotic impression of his American city of choice: New York.  It's a complex piece, that really focusses on the wonder of what NYC must have been like for an European in 1922.  Noisy, tender, and obsessed.  It's a terrific piece of orchestrated music.

Darius Milhaud's "L'homme et son désir" composed in 1918, is what the composer called his 'plastic poem. ' Stockhausen-like to a certain degree, it is one of the best orchestrations mixing a chorus with a full orchestra.  The voices blend into the mix of the music as an instrument.  They're not reciting words, and I like the voice is being used as a sound.  To me, it borders on Exotica.  Yma Sumac is lurking somewhere in the orchestration, if not literally, then at least in my sense of hearing. 

The train like rhythm in Arthur Honegger's "Pacific 231" creates the impression of a culture changing, and more likely it was when he wrote this music in 1923.  It's a beautiful world.  I like the optimistic impression of a world turning around, and the intensity of this piece is almost "Bolero" like, due that it gets faster and faster.  In my opinion, a dangerous piece of music to drive with - but it is a remarkable snapshot of a world going fast as one looks out of a train window.   So if it's not literally about America, it does detail the essence of speed, motion, and a sense of wonderment.