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John Corigliano: Conjurer; Vocalise / Evelyn Glennie, Hila Pitmann. Albany SO, Miller

Album Summary

>Corigliano, John : Conjurer, concerto for percussionist & string orchestra (with optional brass)
>Corigliano, John : Vocalise, for voice, electronics & orchestra
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Leading American composer John Corigliano had reservations about writing a percussion concerto, but the challenge fascinated him. The result is Conjurer, a concerto for percussion like no other, in which 'wood, metal and skin' are utilized in such a way that the soloist, Dame Evelyn Glennie - the world's greatest percussion virtuoso - 'conjures' the musical material from these three choirs, and the orchestra then shares and develops the themes. Vocalise employs electronics in a way that serves to heighten the expressive beauty of the writing, gradually leading the listener from a purely acoustic experience to one that becomes suffused by amplification and electronics.

MusicWeb International, 12th February 2014
I simply can't remember when I've heard percussion arrays captured with such realism...Climaxes are thrilling and fatigue-free, and the soundstage is wide and wondrous. Goodness, what mellifluous and haunting sounds composer and soloist conjure up...Fresh, vital, vigorous; contemporary music of quality, winningly played.

American Record Guide, March/April 2014
Conjurer (2007) is a concerto for percussion and string orchestra written for Evelyn Glennie. The piece is set up in a standard symphonic structure: a robust I, a dreamy II, and a seething, sputtering finale. The language is accessible and tonal, with Corigliano's usual sense of adventure and tendency to meander. Vocalise (1999) was a response to Kurt Masur's millennial request for works that acknowledge the conditions of the turn of the century. Ms Plitmann handles her part impressively in the bel canto department. The Albany Symphony sounds good these days (I used to teach there at SUNY back in the 70s before Mr Miller came to town). Engineering is sumptuous, as is expected from the Troy Savings Bank auditorium.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: EMPAC (Experimental Media Performing Arts Center), RPI (03/13/2011); Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, New York (03/13/2011); EMPAC (Experimental Media Performing Arts Center), RPI (05/22/2011); Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, New York (05/22/2011).


Fascinating works from this American original
There is simply no denying that John Corigliano has been one of our finest and most unique composers for a long time now. His scores are known for their exotic orchestrations and brilliantly written harmonies that draw from any sources and musical traditions that serve the tone of the work. Corigliano frequently writes music that has an impulsive, restless quality to it. The very connotation of the title "Conjurer" makes one think of tribal ritual, pagan celebrations and shamanistic settings that may bring to mind his score to the Ken Russell, "Altered States", as just one example. The percussion concerto, "Conjurer" does contain some of the same wild picturesque sounds that one expects but is, first and foremost, a stunning showpiece for Dame Evelyn Glennie, the Scottish virtuoso who has virtually redefined music for multiple percussion and orchestra. Many composers have written showpieces for her and this is one of the most compelling. Corigliano's work is divided into three movements, featuring the three principle timbres obtainable in typical struck percussion: woods, metals and skins; separated by three cadenzas. The work is also amazingly scored in a somewhat typical concerto fashion (fast-slow-fast) wherein the orchestral timbres are blended to meet some of the percussion's sounds. This is a very fine work that, as in all Corigliano scores, contains musical moments that range from sad to plaintive to ominous to startling. This disc also features the composer's "Vocalise" for soprano and orchestra. This too is an absolutely amazing work in which the soprano sings a true word-less vocalise but with amplification, multiple speakers and even a "loop" created in each performance that both the soloist and the orchestra creates and plays with and against. The work grows increasingly more complex and kinetic and then gradually disintegrates into a hum that surrounds the audience. This work was written for the New York Philharmonic on the occasion of the millennium. Corigliano's inspiration was Marshall McLuhan's quote/theory that "the medium is the message." In this case the medium of the human voice is transformed and treated as its own medium for something larger and more organic. Soprano Hilda Plitmann has worked with Corigliano on many occasions including her work in the stunning "Mr. Tambourine Man", after lyrics by Bob Dylan. Everything about this album impressed me. I admit I expected it to because I have admired Mr. Corigliano's work for a long time and he is one of those composers whose music has never disappointed me. If you are not at all familiar with his music, this disc is an excellent first exposure to his imaginative and emotional power.
Submitted on 10/18/13 by Dan Coombs 
Magical Performances
This new recording brings together two unusual additions to John Corigliano's repertoire. "Conjurer" is a percussion concerto composed for Evelyn Glennie (who performs on this release). The work has six sections: three cadenzas, and three movements, labeled Wood, Metal, and Skin. Each movement uses percussion instruments only belonging to its own group.

Corigliano blends tonal and non-tonal percussion instruments with alacrity. Each cadenza leads into a movement where the string orchestra further develops the themes, along with the soloist. It's an effective work when done well -- and in this recording, it's done very well.

"Vocalise" is the older of the two works, being completed in 1999. This challenging work for soprano, electronics and orchestra plays against audience expectations. When the piece begins, it sounds like a typical contemporary work. The melody seems to skip all over the place, the electronics add a strangeness and artificiality to the sound, and the orchestra bloops and bleeps away with tone clusters and glissandi.

But very soon things start to change. Like a flower blossoming, the work opens up. The melody becomes more tonal, the electronics more subtle, and the ensemble more expansive. It ends quietly, having made the journey through the full potential of the human voice.

The Albany symphony performs admirably in both works. Soprano Hila Plitmann has a pure sustained tone that gives her performance an ethereal quality -- one in keeping with the intent of "Vocalise."

Submitted on 01/20/14 by RGraves321 
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Works Details

>Corigliano, John : Conjurer, concerto for percussionist & string orchestra (with optional brass)
  • Performer: Evelyn Glennie (Percussion)
  • Conductor: David Miller
  • Ensemble: Albany Symphony Orchestra
  • Running Time: 35 min. 3 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 2007

>Corigliano, John : Vocalise, for voice, electronics & orchestra
  • Performers: Mark Baechle (Electronics); Hila Plitmann (Soprano)
  • Conductor: David Miller
  • Running Time: 21 min. 14 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1999