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Arlene Sierra (b.1970) Vol. 2: 'Game of Attrition'; Moler; Piano Concerto; Aquilo / Huw Watkins, piano

Album Summary

>Sierra, Arlene : Moler, for orchestra
>Sierra, Arlene : Art of War, piano concerto
>Sierra, Arlene : Game of Attrition, for orchestra
>Sierra, Arlene : Aquilo, for orchestra
Performer Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This recording presents first performances of four recent scores by Arlene Sierra, the American composer, now living in England. Arlene Sierra's music packs volcanic rhythmic power into compositions that are at once atmospheric, yet possessed of inexorable forward drive. The subject matter of Sierra's compositions is far flung, and includes Asian studies, evolutionary biology, entomology, game theory, siege engines, and architecture, to name but a few. In recent years Sierra has been commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and the Seattle Symphony, and both of these compositions are heard here. Sierra has also taught composition in Cardiff, Wales for a number of years, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, led by their Principal Guest Conductor, Jac van Steen, have played Sierra's orchestral music more frequently than any other orchestra. Their superb performances capture the visceral quality and detail of Sierra's virtuosic scores.

American Record Guide, July/August 2014
The second volume of Bridge's series of Arlene Sierra's music is devoted to orchestral music. She is influenced by knowledge of military strategy, Darwinian evolution, and medicine, among other things. Moler (2012), is about teeth-grinding: Sierra writes this into her work by incorporating rhythms that are supposed to mimic grinding speeds and relative pulses that she read about in scientific papers on the subject. Game of Attrition (2009) is written to mimic Darwinian natural selection: instruments "compete" in the same register. Sierra's music tends toward the free and eclectic in harmony, melody, and rhythm. This is a fine volume in Bridge's series dedicated to Sierra and is well worth hearing.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Wales (01/09/2013-09/10/2013).



Reviews

High-energy composition
This release features four orchestral works by Arlene Sierra. Listening to the entire album, one gets an overall sense of Sierra's style. A small, simple musical idea -- a repeated note motif, a grouping of instruments -- is set in conflict against a similar version of itself. And that back and forth conflict forms the building blocks from which larger and more elaborate structures form.

"Moler" is a jittery, sort orchestral work. The title refers to grinding teeth, and although the music won't set your teeth on edge, it does have that relentless, restless motion and undercurrent of anxiety that teeth-grinding suggests.

PDQ Bach wrote a concerto for piano vs. orchestra - and that seems to be the relationship of forces in Sierra's piano concerto, "The Art of War." As the work's subtitle suggests her point of inspiration is Sun Tzu's classic military treatis.

In the first movement, the piano attacks the orchestra and become overwhelmed by its superior numbers. The repeated note motifs Sierra uses suggest a stabbing motion. One can almost hear the conflict move back and forth through the orchestra.

The second movement casts the piano as an insurgent, darting in and out of view, making quick jabs before retreating. It's an exciting work that requires great virtuosity from both soloist and ensemble.Pianist Huw Watkins and the BBC national Orchestra of Wales directed by Jac van Steen are more than equal to the task.

According to Sierra, the extra-musical genesis of her work "The Game of Attrition" is different species competing for limited natural resources -- in this case represented by different instrumental groups playing in the same registers. As with the piano concerto, there's a sense of conflict in the work, but it makes for compelling listening, even without knowing the background. There are no hackneyed orchestrations here. Every moment the listener is presented with fresh instrumental combinations.

The motifs in "Aquilo" seem to form a chain, with one leading into the other in an interlocking fashion. This work seems less about conflict (though it's still there) and more about an imbalance that continually tips the music forward as it rushes to its conclusion.

"Game of Attrition" is an album of urgent, high-energy music. But for me it was a rewarding listen -- and a refreshing one.
Submitted on 04/28/14 by RGraves321 
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Works Details

>Sierra, Arlene : Moler, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Jac Steen
  • Ensemble: BBC National Orchestra of Wales
  • Notes: BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Wales (01/09/2013-09/10/2013)
  • Running Time: 8 min. 17 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 2012

>Sierra, Arlene : Art of War, piano concerto
  • Performer: Huw Watkins (Piano)
  • Conductor: Jac Steen
  • Notes: BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Wales (01/09/2013-09/10/2013)
  • Running Time: 21 min. 33 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 2010

>Sierra, Arlene : Game of Attrition, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Jac Steen
  • Notes: BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Wales (01/09/2013-09/10/2013)
  • Running Time: 13 min. 2 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 2009

>Sierra, Arlene : Aquilo, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Jac Steen
  • Notes: BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Wales (01/09/2013-09/10/2013)
  • Running Time: 10 min. 52 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 2001