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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Tod Machover, Death and the Powers, Soloists and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose


No doubt many readers will be familiar with the pathbreaking Electronic Music compositions of Tod Machover. Perhaps you might be less familiar with his music that combines live instruments and voices with electronics. Regardless there is reason to take notice in the face of the recorded world premier of Machover's legendary one-act opera Death and the Powers (BMOP Sound 1082), featuring a talented cast of vocalists (including baritone James Maddalena) along with electronics realized in the MIT Media Lab, plus the always focused Boston Modern Orchestra Project, all under conductor and music director Gil Rose.

The poetic and dramatic libretto is the handiwork of US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. I will not attempt to summarize it, as the libretto is included in the CD package. Suffice to say that its quasi-bildungsroman apocalyptic robot cosmos is richly detailed and gives Machover an evocative potential that helps him create a highly dramatic expressionism, a beautiful transcendence of outstanding musicality.

The entire one act opera fills our ears remarkably at some 80-some-odd minutes. It is through composed in a highly Modern chromatic and/or newly  inventive tonal manner, with some beautiful electronics mixing wonderfully well with the fully fleshed out vocal parts and the colorful and powerful expression of the orchestration. Everything comes to us with a highly effective deliberate phrasing that works  with true elegance and impresses dramatically. The more you listen to this one, the more you hear--and that in the best sense since the intricate expression comes alive with repeated earfuls. All components stand out in themselves and as part of the totality.

I very strongly recommend this album. It shows just how complete a conceptualist is Machover, how finely developed his orchestrational sensitivities are. Kudos! Bravo! A wonderful work and the performance is equally definitive. Do listen to this one, get it!

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