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Michael Torke (b.1961): Concerto for Orchestra; Iphegenia, for six winds & two strings / Royal Liverpool PO; Univ. of Kansas Wind Ensemble

Album Summary

>Torke, Michael [Composer] : Concerto for Orchestra
>Torke, Michael [Composer] : Oracle, for orchestra
>Torke, Michael [Composer] : Bliss, for wind ensemble
>Torke, Michael [Composer] : Iphegenia, ballet for 2 clarinet, 2 bassoon, 2 horns, cello & double bass
Conductors Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Four new works by the compelling American contemporary composer Michael Torke include the Concerto for Orchestra performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and conducted by Vasily Petrenko. Bliss, whose rhythmic syncopations are explored and developed over its 11-1/2 minutes to scintillating effect by the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble. Oracle was composed and designed to be a concert opener and its tonal textures proclaim its raison d'etre and is performed by the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, and finally Iphigenia performed by the Camerata NY and written for the stage brings out the Baroque tendencies and influences in Torke's compositions. Released on Torke's own Ecstatic Records.

American Record Guide, March/April 2016
Michael Torke's music continues to elicit pleasure and joy. These recent pieces are filled with vibrant life and technical brilliance. They're hard not to like.

His Concerto for Orchestra (2014) is in seven movements, all entirely based on the simple three-note motive of a fourth down and major second up. This offers enough material for an absorbing set of continuous variations inspiring in their fertility: there is some jazz, some fantasy, an expressive slow movement, a cheery pastorale, and a vivacious standing ovation coda (with unfortunate pop-style ellipsis). Orchestration is colorful and varied. It sounds like great fun for the lucky performers, too.

Oracle (2013) is an attractive extended fanfare. Bliss (2003) is for winds; it layers snazzy pop over a broadly conceived background chord progression. It's irresistible. Iphegenia (2013) is a suite for an octet of six winds and two strings - really a tone poem on the Aeschylus legend. Its episodes are mostly jovial. By no means coldly neoclassical, it is diverting and will make you smile.

This is a composer with a completely developed style, and has established himself as one of our truly great composers. He's an American treasure. All of these performances are devoted and filled with spirit. Don't miss this - or anything else of his at this point. Notes by the composer.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Centennial Hall, Rock Island, IL (06/10/2013); John Kilgore Sound and Recording (06/10/2013); Lied Center, University of Kansas (06/10/2013); Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (06/10/2013); Centennial Hall, Rock Island, IL (10/06/2013); John Kilgore Sound and Recording (10/06/2013); Lied Center, University of Kansas (10/06/2013); Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (10/06/2013); Centennial Hall, Rock Island, IL (10/07/2013-10/08/2013); John Kilgore Sound and Recording (10/07/2013-10/08/2013); Lied Center, University of Kansas (10/07/2013-10/08/2013); Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (10/07/2013-10/08/2013); Centennial Hall, Rock Island, IL (11/24/2014); John Kilgore Sound and Recording (11/24/2014); Lied Center, University of Kansas (11/24/2014); Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (11/24/2014).



Reviews

"User Friendly"
Michael Torke is certainly on to something. Often labeled as a post Minimalist, Mr. Torke composes music of great vitality and luminous colors. His manipulation of rhythm is highly original, of texture, complex and multilayered. Everything is comfortably anchored in tonality. He seamlessly incorporates disparate elements from a wide variety of genres and styles. Itís for good reason Mr. Torke is one of the most frequently performed of contemporary composers. All 4 of the compositions included on this disc are of recent vintage. The ambitious Concerto for Orchestra is particularly strong. Its 7 movements are methodically constructed upon a simple 4 note motif. Throughout its 25 minute duration, the ingenuity quotient is high. Oracle, conceived as a concert opener and scored for orchestra, is an exuberant 4 minute prelude. Bliss, scored primarily for winds, is a joyous 11 minute essay in polyrhythms. Iphegenia owes its existence to a dance commission. Itís somewhat redolent of Stravinsky in terms of its wind writing. Within its 21 minutes, there is much to absorb and savor. Recorded with various ensembles, in various venues, the sound is uniformly good as is the playing. In total, a welcome survey of recent works by a very creative American musician. The illuminating liner notes are by the composer.


Submitted on 03/04/16 by Allen Cohen 
An exciting collection
I've liked everything I've heard by Michael Torke. In my opinion, his musical style seems to sit in the sweet spot -- his language is tonal without being tied to tradition, his rhythms propulsive without the intense repetition of minimalism (some consider him post-minimalist).

The Concerto for Orchestra starts with a very simple motif -- C-G-C-A. From that seed grows a 25-minute work that, while never straying too far from that opening motif, changes and expands in imaginative ways. While it's not quite the straightforward instrumental showcase of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, Torke's Concerto places heavy demands on the ensemble as a whole by the way he combines instruments from different sections.

Iphigenia for six winds and two strings is another example of Torke's organic approach to music. As he explains in the liner notes, each movement starts with an opening theme that Torke then expands by inserting new notes into it. These expanding themes are played against each other contrapuntally. The modest ensemble gives the music a transparency that helps reveal the interplay between the various lines.

Also included are two shorter works (Bliss and Oracle) that provide a nice transition from the Concerto to Iphigenia. All four works on the album were written in either 2013 or 2014, giving the listener a snapshot of the composer's current musical style.

After repeating listening to this release, my opinion remains unchanged. I still like everything I've heard by Michael Torke -- including this album.
Submitted on 08/24/16 by RGraves321 
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Works Details

>Torke, Michael [Composer] : Concerto for Orchestra
  • Conductor: Vasily Petrenko
  • Ensemble: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Running Time: 24 min. 17 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 2014

>Torke, Michael [Composer] : Oracle, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Mark Smith
  • Ensemble: Quad City Symphony
  • Running Time: 5 min. 17 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 2013

>Torke, Michael [Composer] : Bliss, for wind ensemble
  • Conductor: Paul Popiel
  • Ensemble: University of Kansas Wind Ensemble
  • Notes: Lied Center, University of Kansas (10/07/2013-10/08/2013)
  • Running Time: 11 min. 36 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Torke, Michael [Composer] : Iphegenia, ballet for 2 clarinet, 2 bassoon, 2 horns, cello & double bass
  • Conductor: Richard Owen
  • Ensemble: Camerata New York
  • Running Time: 21 min. 14 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Ballet
  • Written: 2013