Mark-Anthony Turnage was the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s composer in residence for five years, and this is the third volume of his works written for the ensemble. The recordings are all take n from live performances, which gives them an added sense of freshness and energy.
On Opened Ground is kind of a disjointed jazz-flavored concerto for viola. The music moves in fits and starts with the viola (Lawrence Power, soloist) popping in and out in surprising ways, while still providing most of the melodic content. Sometimes it seems like the soloist and orchestra are playing two different pieces, then there’s a sudden shift, and it turns out all to be part of Turnage’s plan.
By contrast, Texan Tenebrae is an emotionally wrought little gem. It grew from Turnage’s opera Anna Nicole, and is a work contemplating the death of the Texas Playmate-turned-trophy wife. Turnage effectively uses dissonance to both ratchet up the emotion and suggest that, despite the placid nature of the music, all is not right
Turnage composed the Lullaby for Hans for his mentor Hans Werner Henze. This string orchestra work pays fitting homage to Henze’s style. The ensemble drifts about in thick chordal clouds of sound, sounding ethereal, and — despite the dissonances — strangely restful
The clarinet concerto Riffs and Refrains would make a great companion piece to Bernstein’s “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs.” Both works take the sound of the jazz clarinet, and jazz motifs and recast them as building blocks from contemporary classical works. In Turnage’s case, the piece is prone to sudden bursts of energy, followed by slow sections that seem to be holding the motion of the music back (but only for a little while). Michael Collins effortlessly switches back and forth from classical to jazz playing, making this an effective work that brings together both worlds.
Christian Tetzlaff fearlessly performs the violin concerto Mambo, Blues and Tarantelly. The opening section sounds like an angular version of the mambo from West Side Story, and the other parts equally traditional and aggressively modern.That’s not to say it’s not original music — it is. Tetzlaff is completely invested in this complex music and turns in a highly focused performance.
If you’re already purchased the first two volumes in this series, then you need only know the quality hasn’t wavered. If you’re looking for an introduction to Turnage, this disc can provide a nice overview of his orchestral writing.