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Symphonies Nos 1-7 & 14

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 18, 2006
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Siegerland Orchestra
  • Conductor: Olaf Henzold, Christoph Poppen, Jorge Rotter
  • Composer: Gloria Coates
  • Audio CD (April 18, 2006)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • ASIN: B000EQHS82
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #403,611 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Having adored Sofia Gubaidulina's In Croce and having been recommended Gloria Coates by "avant-captain nemo", Gloria Coates' symphonies were a natural listen for me.

Though Coates' symphonies (some of which were composed before "In croce") are less dense than Gubaidulina's, there is a very definite similarity in the work of the two composers because both rely on intense, passionately-played melodies on strings tuned in unusual ways. Though seldom noticed, this is quite like the melodies bands like My Bloody Valentine and the lesser-known Band of Susans did with electric guitars. On "Symphonies Nos. 1, 7 & 14", apart from a timpani at the end of one track and a full orchestra on "Symphony No.7", the sound is exclusively based around string orchestras that superficially can seem to be just playing the same note repeatedly. [My mother once compared it to a malfunctioning electrical appliance!]

Nonetheless, careful listening does reveal a great deal going on as the strings move through each of the symphonies here. The energy, though held remarkably deep, is particularly pronounced in "Lamentation", which possesses remarkable turbulence behind its apparent "nothingness", but is present all through the three symphonies present here and makes them a remarkably consistent listen. "Whirligig of Time" really does whirl in a remarkable way, aided by some powerful brass work, and there is a degree of variation in the sound that seems quite unexpected from a superficial listen.
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Format: Audio CD
It is always an adventure to discover the work of an unfamiliar composer. One of the best sources for the discovery of new music is the budget-priced Naxos label's "American Classics" series. I was pleased to hear symphonies by Gloria Coates (b. 1938), a composer I had not known before.
Coates has lived in Germany since 1969, and her work is not well-known. It is challenging, difficult, and discordant music which will not appeal to everyone. But I found it moving and fascinating.

The most prominent feature of Coates's music is the use of string glissandos -- slidings up and down the scale as occur when one runs one's fingers over the piano. The glissandos at various volumes tempos, rhythms, and registers are ever-present, sometimes as the theme and sometimes as background. Other features of this music include the use of counterpoint, canonical writing with much repetition and variation. The music uses a hypnotic rhythm, frequently punctuated with tympani or other percussion. And the music is discordant, using quarter tones, atonality, pentatonic scales, and instruments playing in different scales. Coates's symphonies are programmatic as the composer gives descriptive titles to each movement, sometimes after the fact.

This CD includes three symphonies by Gloria Coates (she has composed 15) written at different stages of her career. The symphonies are performed by three different orchestras, and recorded at different times, which makes this CD an excellent overview of Coates's work and of performance practices.

The earliest work on this CD is Coates's symphony no. 1, "Music on Open Strings", a short four-movement work composed in 1972-1973. The recording dates from 1980 and features the Siegerland Orchestra. The work is scored for strings and tympani.
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Format: Audio CD
Long ignored in her native USA, and pretty obscure even in her adopted Europe, Gloria Coates has come to greater attention in recent years with the release of several CDs on Naxos. This one from 2006 features three of the composer's symphonies, performed by a changing cast of German orchestras and conductors.

Coates has a fairly unique soundworld where glissandi are prominent, in fact, sometimes glissandi are exclusively used instead of fixed pitches. This soundworld is in full force in "Music on Open Strings" (1973), which the composer later called her Symphony No. 1. The first movement introduces a pentatonic theme that is taken up by the entire orchestra and transformed into glissandi with all the majesty and eeriness of Ligeti and Penderecki's sound-mass pieces. In the second movement, pizzicatos suddenly take over the texture and disrupt an even flow, thus the title "Scherzo". The third movement introduces even more magic, as the string orchestra retunes while playing to a conventional Western scale. Finally, the piece ends with a "refracted mirror canon in 14 lines", which paradoxically ends the piece in a convincing fashion, but at the same time seems to break off and leaving us wanting more. I like "Music on Open Strings" a lot, I'd love to experience it in concert to see how these sounds come out of an ordinary string orchestra.

Unfortunately, the later two works on this disc (and other music I've heard by the composer) are disappointing. Though one is initially intrigued by Coates' glissandi style, when used in work after work, it comes to seem an empty musical skeleton that could use some real, varied content on top of it. The Symphony No. 7 (1990-91) and Symphony No.
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