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Francisco Goya's famous series of prints Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War) were created between 1810 and 1820, though not actually published until 35 years after Goya's death, in 1863. There are 82 prints in all, each highly critical of both Spanish and French rulers during the conflicts between the two countries in the early 19th century, and they are shockingly graphic: realistic depictions of mutilated corpses in the aftermath of battle and the effects of famine, and gross mockeries of the ruling classes and the clergy. They are less high art and more a sort of proto-photojournalism.
Martin Bresnick's Caprichos Enfáticos: Los Desastres de la Guerra, an 8-movement concerto for pianist Lisa Moore and Sō Percussion, begins with, of all things, a farandole/farándula--a popular, jaunty 6/8 chain dance. In live performance, Lisa Moore plays the opening line of the farandúla on xylophone, alone on stage. A percussionist enters behind her and seamlessly takes over the line, and Moore continues to the second line. A second percussionist enters, taking over the first line, and the first percussionist moves to the second line, and Moore moves to the next layer, etc. It's torturous to try and describe the effect in words, especially since it's been three years since I saw it live at the 2008 Canberra International Music Festival in Australia, but it really does look and feel like a musical chain dance. It's also just really cool to watch Lisa Moore play toms.
Eventually, of course, she does end up at the piano. Farándula De Charlatanes, No Saben El Camino (Farandole Of Charlatans - They Don't Know The Way) alternates between harsh dissonance and strange timbres (flexatone!) and a kind of offbeat march.Read more ›
The artwork of Francisco Goya is bold, stark and frequently very sombre. The artist had to live through the atrocities of the nineteenth century and Napoleonic conquest and, like Picasso's "Guernica". his art is often a reflection of the brutality of wartimes. Goya's sketchbook, "Los Desastres de la Guerra" (the Disasters of War)" provides the imagery that composer Martin Bresnick used for this new work for piano and percussion and the resulting music is dramatic, bold and a bit disturbing, as is the source material. Each of the movements to this eight movement concerto, Caprichos Enfaticos (Emphatic Capriccios)" is titled after one of the sketches in the Goya collection. Bresnick uses the provincial Spanish dance, the farandole, as the form for six of the movements. The farandole is typically in 6/8 meter and ranges in tempo from an accented moderato to a highly propulsive allegro. As conceived by Bresnick, this work is intended to be performed in a mutli-media way, with projections of sketches by Johanna Bresnick, the composer's wife, inspired by the Goya originals. I imagine that seeing the visuals projected during performance helps the symbolism and imagery intended by the music, however, Bresnick's score stands very well on its own as a very powerful listening experience. The music is wonderfully written to run a range of emotion from the darkly mysterious (as in mvt. 7 "Strange Devotion") to the violent and chaotic (as in mvt. 2 "Farandole of the charlatans - they don't know the way").Read more ›
If Caprichos Enfaticos is representative of Mr. Bresnick's work, he's a fascinating combination of three composers. On one side he's an east coaster, obsessed with working out the structure abstractions of music. On another side, he falls sometimes into post minimalist grooves and relaxed repetition. And finally, he has the ability to suddenly flip to a very quirky, whimsical, highly unpredictable, Dadaist side.
The CD is inspired by a series of Goya's hyper-expressionistic, macabre paintings which were part of the original multi-media performance. There is a pent-up violence in some of Bresnick's gestures that easily capture Goya's explosiveness. Meanwhile, the work's music language revolves mostly around the Spanish dance, the Farandula. Here the dance periodically returns in various guises and tempi, and is always skillfully woven into the more abstract elements of the music.
The first cut opens with this dance and takes it through various post-minimalist processes as well as a lot of fugal-like entries while the toms keep an insistent groove underneath. In the second movement, the piano enters with the same rhythmic material, only simpler and more lyrical. The piano writing is reminiscent of de Falla (mostly because of the insistent b6) but even more so of Bartok, in the use of octaves to articulate the main pitch structure. The third moment consists of militaristic toms with the piano giving quiet plaintive responses/cries for peace.The 4th cut is the whole ensemble again in another dance, featuring a piano section with interesting octave transfers. The fifth is another dance but each time it returns it is more abstracted, cannibalized, or blown to pieces in a Goya/Webernesque way.Read more ›
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