Michael Torke – Concerto for Orchestra runs true to form

I’ve liked everything I’ve heard by Michael Torke. In my opinion, his musical style seems to sit a 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.

Michael Torke: Concerto for Orchestra
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko, conductor (Concerto)
Quad City Symphony, Mark Russell Smith, conductor (Oracle)
Universty of Kansas Wind Ensemble, Paul W. Popeil, conductor (Bliss)
Camerata NY, Richard Owen, conductor (Iphigenia)
Ecstatic Records ER 092261

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