In this writer’s mind there are two types of releases on the BMOP label. Discs with music or at least composers that have some familiarity to these ears and discs of unfamiliar composers. This disc fits into the latter category. Jeremy Gill is a new name to these ears but he is hardly new on the scene with at least 3 or 4 CDs already out devoted mostly to his chamber music.
This disc then will give the listener an idea of how well Gil Rose and his Boston Modern Orchestra Project choose and subsequently perform less familiar new music. There is a lot of music out there and it takes a special ear to choose wisely such that one can expect a given release to keep its place among the other well chosen music that makes up the BMOP label’s catalog. It would appear that this was and will remain a wise choice. Three works are presented in chronological order of their composition.
The first is the title work, Before the Wresting Tides (2012), a choral fantasy setting a poem by American poet Hart Crane (1899-1932). This was written specifically to function as a companion piece for Beethoven’s rarely performed Choral Fantasy Op. 80 (ca. 1808). This work shares a similar orchestration and formal plan. There is an obligatto piano solo written for Gill’s friend and colleague Ching-Yun Hu, a large orchestra, chorus, and vocal solos. All of this fits into a compact 16 minutes or so. It is decidedly more modern in orchestration and harmony than Beethoven’s work but it shares a virtuosic piano part, lyrical melodies, and marvelously efficient setting of the text handled beautifully by the Marsh Chapel Choir under Scott Allen Jarrett. There is a lot going on here but I can’t imagine an audience being anything but entertained by this rather bombastic companion which one hopes will continue to be performed alongside the Beethoven model bringing both works to modern ears.
The second work is titled Serenada Concertante (2013) for oboe and orchestra. It is sort of an enlarged oboe concerto. The soloist, Erin Hannigan demonstrates the virtuosic and lyric skills that seem to be endemic to this entire orchestra. Gill’s writing makes large romantic gestures with plenty of painfully virtuosic opportunities (handled beautifully) for the soloist and the various soli and duettini which occur in the course of this full blown concerto. The composer’s ability to utilize such a large orchestra yet still produce lucid textures is a mark of genius and, no doubt, one of the reasons that Gill’s music was chosen for this series of recordings.
Our finale is another concerto of sorts, the Notturno Concertante (2014) for clarinet and orchestra. Again we hear an amazing soloist, Chris Grymes, on clarinet. Again we hear amazing virtuosity and lyricism played against a large and lucid orchestral fabric. Very satisfying music for both audience and orchestra. It is clearly a workout for orchestra, soloist, and conductor but the energies expended produce a very satisfying result.
Whether or not Jeremy Gill winds up being a household name, one of the brightest lights of the 21st century remains to be seen but this is an auspicious release. This largely romantic sounding composer also seems to have a curiously “American” sound which harkens to the likes of William Schuman, David Diamond, and, well choose your own favorite mid-twentieth century American master after you hear this. Well done.