Kevin Malone deals with the horrors of 9/11 in stylistically varied music. The result is emotionally gripping.
The 11th September 2001 has left the United States affected in many ways. It was probably only a matter of time before we could also expect musical interpretations of the terrible events. Barely a year after the events, American composer Kevin Malone (for a long time living in England), who has clearly been profiled in various genres, was inspired to deal with this subject matter. The American, born in Buffalo, New York, had initially studied mathematics and computer science , before he began his composition studies with Morton Feldman, William Bolcom and Stanley Glasser ; a Fulbright scholarship allowed him to study in Paris. Today Malone directs the composition class at the University of Manchester.
‘ Eighteen Minutes’ (2002) was a commissioned composition and is described by the composer as a passacaglia’ for two double basses and strings ; the work was premiered in Kiev in 2003 and has as its central design element , the number 18, the number of minutes elapsing between the two aircraft collisions with the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The composition is divided into eighteen sections, each of them from ten phrases of 18 seconds in length that overlap each other partially multilayered. The opening tempo is quarter note = 180, and the entire work comprises 504 cycles, (18×10) + (18×18). It would take too long to present the constructivist aspects of the work in detail here; many of the non-musical influences on the work are explained in the informative booklet. Stylistically, Malone begins close to minimalism and conveys so impressively the visual impact of the event, but the work fragments into a descending lament, and we end up in an elegy for the dead. David Heyes and Dan Styffe offer with the New World Ensemble, conducted by the composer, an interpretation which probably corresponds exactly to Malone’s intentions , also in the precise tuning of the Interplay between soli and tutti. Remember that not all voices are always clear cut, there lies in the nature of things a composed blur or sonority ; if Malone leaves tonality (and also the chromatic system ) this is done not merely to imitate sirens (as he does), but also to express the shock of the event to world order. I assume that the total duration of the composition in the present recording (19 minutes, 50) does not contradict the title of the work.
‘ Requiem 77’ for tape and cello originated in 2012 after a visit to Washington in the footsteps of the crash into the Pentagon ; the tape track is the original air traffic control recording of 11 September, and newly recorded material for solo cello; in the course of composition , the tape material is still further compressed and partially fragmented. Unfortunately, I must confess that for me the connection between the solo part which is of a very lyrical scale, and the tape material, which directs one on the other, does not quite work for me. This is certainly not a reflection on the soulful playing of the Canadian Christian Elliott, a former student of Matt Haimovitz and Ralph Kirshbaum, which would be perhaps upset by the tape track in concert.
‘Angels and Fireflies’ (angels and dragonflies ), a tone poem for flute and string orchestra in four connected sections , was written in 2011, five years after a visit to the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville (Pennsylvania) . On the eve of the fifth commemoration of the events Malone had visited the crash site and experienced the magical atmosphere at dusk. Even without the extra-musical component is the composition of an extremely dense, although eclectic work , in the tradition of Nicholas Maw or Richard Rodney Bennett which is by no means meant as deprecation. On the contrary, this composition works just as well as pure music. Victoria Daniel and the Manchester Sinfonia under Richard Howarth offer a very coherent and musically striking performance, full of expression and musical beauty, with an excellent recording.
‘ Requiem 77’ is certainly an interesting experiment, but perhaps not successful . Overall, a production that one can hardly escape emotionally.
Interpretation: X X X X Sound Quality: ****Repertoire: **** Booklet: ***