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Ziporyn: Frog's Eye / Rose, Boston Modern Orchestra Project

Notes & Reviews:

"An impressive collection of recent orchestral music by Bang on a Can clarinetist and composer Evan Ziporyn. His music blends an inviting post-minimalist attitude with a Pacific Asian tinge (he has had an intense involvement with the music of Bali). Think East Coast meets West, with a healthy dose of Ivy League sophistication and enthusiastic multiculturalism (Ziporyn teaches at MIT). The program leads off with Frog's Eye (2002), an absolutely delightful overture in an inviting post-Reichian style. The rhythmic, charming opening with pizzicato strings and lyrical winds dissolves into a dense Pacific haze that, after a fade-out, opens out into a final joyful dance, with soaring winds and an irresistible climax. In a different world, this would be a standard repertoire opener. I can't imagine anyone not smiling after it's over. The Ornate Zither and the Nomad Flute (2005) is a beautiful setting of a pair of texts on metaphorically musical topics, one a 9th Century Chinese poem (Chinese text included, along with English translation), the other a recently published piece by WS Merwin (from a 2004 issue of The New Yorker). Ziporyn alternates lines of both texts in their languages over a rich, glowing wind orchestra, the zither's pentatonic strings migrating in orchestral garb through the texture along with a varyingly colored flute. Soprano Harley's buttery soprano sails through the pulsing ocean of sound with deep humanity. The effect is sublime. War Chant (2004), for orchestra, is also striking but considerably more mysterious. This 14-minute fantasy opens with a "sigh" motive over dense polytonal clusters and jazzy brass insertions-the atmosphere is sinister. Then we get some finger-popping jazz, a long melody, some pizzicato strings, and then a magical glowing passage with synthesizer leading to a waterfall effect toward the end. The machine runs down, but a glow remains. This is 21st Century impressionism-most enchanting. Mr Ziporyn is a world-class bass clarinetist. The program closer is Drill (2001), a concerto jam session for bass clarinet and wind ensemble (played here by the composer) that shows off his Balinese performance skills with plenty of pentatonic spirit and rhythmic exuberance. The piece is joyous good-time music, sure to delight. This is a dazzling program that will surely win many new Ziporyn fans. Engineering is up close and pop-ish, but fits well with this music." -ARG


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