Missy Mazzoli Dark with Excessive Bright — Exceptional

Dark with Excessive Bright was composed in 2018 with four configurations. The solo instrument can either be a contrabass or a violin (now there’s a contrast). The ensemble can either be a string orchestra or a string quintet. There are thus four versions of this work, each having a different character. 

This release starts with the violin/string orchestra version. It concludes with the violin/string quintet version. Hearing both is revelatory. There’s a gravitational shift between the two versions. The chamber version sounds lighter and more transparent. All the players seem more on equal footing. 

The orchestral version presents a richer soundscape. And the weight of the ensemble separates it from the soloist. The chamber version is about six musicians playing together. The orchestral version is about many musicians supporting a soloist.

Peter Herresthal is the violin soloist. He gives the music a shimmering, liquid quality that’s spot on. And his performances differ in the two versions. Wow. 

Another highlight for me was the Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres). It’s an embodiment of the music of the spheres. Inspired by the movement of the planets, Mazzoli creates a work with wheels within wheels. Themes double back on themselves. Sometimes they overlap, other times shifting in and out of phase as they progress. It’s an atmospheric work with a lot going on — if you pay very close attention. 

In Orpheus Alive Mazzoli depicts two key moments of the myth — when Eurydice dies, and when Orpheus decides to follow her into the underworld. Both moments are stretched out, letting us experience the music and the emotions in slow motion.

If you’re not that familiar with Mazzoli’s music, this is a great place to start. Especially when you compare the two versions of Dark with Excessive Bright.

Missy Mazzoli: Dark with Excessive Bright
Peter Herresthal, violin
Arctic Philharmonic; Tim Weiss, conductor
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; James Gaffigan, conductor

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