Saturday, September 29, 2007

Speaking of protracted quiet

I've been slightly less than dedicated about blogging lately, and it looks like it will stay that way for at least the next couple of weeks. After taking too much time off from work this summer, I got out of the habit and, as usual, find myself behind only a month into the semester. What with a set of eight piano pieces to write, a class to teach – thank god it's only the one this fall – and a thesis to draft, I suicidally took on yet another project. I was commissioned (read: passive-aggressively harangued by a good friend) to compress the orchestration of a one-act opera by Tauno Pylkkänen called Bathseba on Saarenmaa. For those non-Baltic readers, Saarenmaa is the island off the Estonian coast where the story takes place. It's quite a nice little drama, about 40 minutes long, and very tuneful. Pylkkänen was dubbed the "Puccini of the North", and it's not a bad tag, as far as these comparisons go.

Here's the catch: there's no extant full score of the version I'm working on, so the orchestration has to be concocted from a set of parts and a vocal score. I thought it would be easy enough, but it's turning out to be a major pain, not least because the brass-heavy original doesn't lend itself easily to an ensemble of 13 players, with two horns being the only matched pair. Deciding how to voice some of the chords so they still sound full is a minor nightmare, and the woodwind players are going to kill me over the instrument changes. Still, it's nice to have a new challenge to re-engage my brain after a too-long period of rest. Something about taking on this job kick-started me, and now I'm ready to go again. So while I get this done, I'll have time for little else than short posts like the present one. More rants to come, though.

Listening to:

Frank Bridge: Fantasy Trio for two violins and viola
Luca Francesconi: String Quartet no. 3

And, of course, Pylkkänen.

1 comment:

DavidH said...

Hope you're enjoying the Bridge Trio. As Anthony Payne points out, "[the Rhapsody-Trio] is a phantasy in all but name and the composer's most concentated example [...] the Trio numbers with Bridge's most subtle and individual creations, as many-sided in its way as more ambitious achievements".

Why this man's music was neglected for so many years is anybody's guess. I only really discovered it by accident. Naxos has a lovely set of recordings of the complete works for string quartet, played very convincingly by the excellent Maggini String Quartet.

Thanks for the Francesconi. It's very impressive, though I think I'll have to listen to it a few more times before I really understand why.