Gloria Coates: Symphony No. 15; Cantata da Requiem; Transitionsby Werner Heider
Weighing in on this album with her 15th symphony, composer Gloria Coates holds the clear record for the most symphonies by a female composer. Those already familiar with her previous 14 contributions will recognize her familiar bag of tricks, most notably her prevalent use of glissandos. As in previous examples of her orchestra writing, Coates' 15th symphony is again… See more details below
Weighing in on this album with her 15th symphony, composer Gloria Coates holds the clear record for the most symphonies by a female composer. Those already familiar with her previous 14 contributions will recognize her familiar bag of tricks, most notably her prevalent use of glissandos. As in previous examples of her orchestra writing, Coates' 15th symphony is again concerned more with texture than melody, and this symphony represents her most abstract development and exploration of the textural possibilities of an orchestra. This CD also contains Coates' 1972 "Cantata da Requiem." Although many of her trademark compositional techniques are still present, her treatment of vocal music is much more melodically oriented. The text draws from English and German wartime excerpts from everything from weather reports to newspaper articles. Soprano Teri Dunn and the Talisker Players do an exemplary job of capturing the meaning of color of the text. Closing out the album is "Transitions," composed in 1984. This work, which is somewhat of a small chamber symphony, was later expanded into what was to become her "Fourth Symphony." Here again we see Coates turning to a more textural, exploratory approach to composition, markedly differing from the "Requiem."
- Release Date:
- Naxos American
- Symphony No. 15 ("Homage to Mozart") - Gloria Coates - ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra - Michael Boder
- Cantata da Requiem ("'WW II Poems for Peace"), for soprano & chamber orchestra - Gloria Coates - Marianne Moore - Cris Posslac - Phyllis McGinley - Teri Dunn - Elfriede Birndorfer - Charlotte Hagedorn - Talisker Players
- Transitions, for chamber orchestra - Gloria Coates - Werner Heider - Ars Nova Nuremberg
Performance CreditsWerner Heider Primary Artist
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Here's an experiment we should all try occasionally: get a CD of music by a composer whose work you've never heard before, and listen without reading up on the music beforehand. OK, I cheated a little and read the back of the CD, which promised that Gloria Coates is "startlingly individual" - well, that could be good or bad, couldn't it? Either way, I came to this without preconceived notions of what I was supposed to hear. I was rewarded handsomely. The Symphony no.15 was commissioned for Mozart's anniversary in 2006, but one could not by any stretch call it Mozartean "although it does use his Ave verum corpus in the second movement". Startlingly individual is about right - I haven't heard anything quite like this before. The first movement is full of tension and in its "bigness" reminds me of Bruckner "albeit a Bruckner for the space age". If I had read Kyle Gann's useful booklet note first, I would have been well prepared for Coates' "trademarks" - string glissandos, chorales, and quite a bit of martial percussion as it was, these all came as fascinating novelties. The other movements are also full of drama and flow. This is very accessible music and could make an ideal starting point for listeners who "don't like all that modern stuff". The Cantata da Requiem is from 1972 and sets the words of German and English women from World War 2. It's recognisably by the same composer although less "weird" the settings are very evocative, even pictorial at times, and even what seems like a very ordinary piece of writing ""A note from Elfriede Birndorder, a schoolteacher"" is invested with quite a bit of weight. The whole piece is very moving, especially with the surprisingly "but effectively" conventional peroration with piano. Transitions didn't impress me much the first time I heard it, but subsequently reading about the piece clarified things it's really just that it's generally not as immediate in impact as the symphony, although they share many traits. But a second listen paid off. All in all, a great introduction to a fascinating composer.
Gloria Coates is easily one of the most exciting and adventurous composers of the past several decades. A fierce modernist with a musical language all her own, she is as prolific as she is profound, having written no less than 15 symphonies in addition to numerous chamber and vocal works. It’s a travesty that she isn’t better known, but Naxos is looking to raise her profile with a new disc that presents a nice cross-section of Coates’ work from both a chronological and stylistic perspective. Her 15th symphony, written in 2004-5, is the centerpiece of this recording. It’s relatively short, clocking in at 22 minutes, but chock full of her signature string glissandos and unique tension between tonal and atonal forms. The opening movement is built upon repetitive, slowly unfolding string patterns occasionally interrupted by dissonant punctuation marks. The eerie sonorities contribute to a hypnotic, unsettling mood that builds to an almost unnerving intensity. Coates maintains the unearthly atmosphere throughout movement two. The constantly ascending strings evoke a feeling of deep space—airless, black and empty, yet full of unseen mystery. The music seems to be reaching for a resolution that is seemingly just out of reach. The final movement opens with a Herrmannesque brass fanfare before transitioning into dense abstraction that at times resembles electronic music. Tonality and atonality battle for supremacy until Coates eventually brings the two into an uneasy alliance at the symphony’s conclusion. It’s an astonishing piece of music given a brilliant interpretation by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. Also included is Coates’ 1972 “Cantata da Requiem.” It’s comprised of six short movements based on World War II-era songs and texts that are sung by soprano Teri Dunn with plaintive urgency. The music’s emotive power is enhanced by the sparse instrumentation, and Coates’ writing is by turns angular, discordant, haunting and profound. “Transitions,” from 1984, is a deeply personal musical response to the death of Coates’ father. Utilizing strings and woodwinds, Coates creates stark, descending musical patterns that seem to plumb unfathomable depths. The music is dark, at times despairing, and yet ultimately and strangely cathartic.