15 March 2007

Shapey: Evocation II

I recently discovered the music of Ralph Shapey from a superb album on the Arabesque label with Joel Krosnick and Gil Kalish among others. This is scrupulous, passionate, uncompromising music rich, rough and powerful. I refer to the two works I've looked at so far, the Songs of Life for Soprano, Cello and Piano and the Evocation II for Cello, Piano ad Percussion. What strikes me about these ecstatic works is their depth while at the same time wish for accesibility - from the ending cadences which are just that, to the recurrent ostinatos, which while terribly apparent in the score are less apparent to the ear, to the way in which he takes the same material and repeats it in a different context and it sounds terribly fresh. For instnace, the opening third movement of the Evocation begins with a cello cadenza which, I believe, is exactly the same as when it appeared in the first movement. In a way there are two things at play: first, the material is strong enough that it doesn't need to be changed - this also probably makes the player happier too. Second, from the perspective of the listener, the effect will always be of one gesture as individual notes become molded in such a rapid dissonant texture. I also admire how the instruments must be fitted to the music and not vice versa, notice how in both these works, the cello is required to be tuned down.
I have great admiration for this music and immediately on hearing it, have that powerful muscular reaction that I so seldom get in other's music.

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