MICHAEL TORKE (b.1961): Concerto for Orchestra (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Vasily Petrenko), Oracle (Quad City Symphony; Mark Russell Smith), Bliss for Wind Ensemble (University of Kansas Wind Ensemble), Iphigenia for 6 Winds and 2 Strings (Camerata NY; Richard Owen.
Catalogue Number: 11R082
Label: Ecstatic Records
Description: Four fine examples of Torke's bold, extrovert brand of breezy, tonal post-minimalism. Rather than obsessively repeating fragmentary cells and slowly mutating them as in 'traditional' minimalism, Torke limits his material to a basic gesture which remains constant throughout - a thematic motif in Concerto, a rhythm in Bliss - and then varies everything else about it. The four-note motto in Concerto is a constant; tempi, dynamics and especially orchestration (the exuberantly colorful timbres more than justify the title) are constantly in flux, and the piece is divided into seven linked movements each with its distinct mood and character. Bliss sets up a handclapping rhythm, and a succession of jazzy episodes arising from a constantly evolving melody with varying harmonies and instrumentation provides variety and direction. Oracle is a bold curtain-opener that varies phrases from the opening fanfare, combining them in new, unexpected ways. Iphigenia seems rather optimistic and jaunty to illustrate Euripides' tragedy of intrigue and sacrifice, but its seven movements, each based on a theme presented at the start and then augmented and combined with earlier variants of itself in lively counterpoint, have an appealing energy and momentum.