- Autumn Hurricanes, A Spatial Cantata for Widely Seperated Vocal & Instrumental Groups
The Henry Brant Collection, Vol. 5: Autumn Hurricanesby Henry Brant
Henry Brant's "Autumn Hurricanes," the fifth installment in Innova's The Henry Brant Collection, is based out of a very intriguing premise -- seven pieces that illustrate in music, and embody the characteristics of, seven historical Caribbean hurricanes. The elephantine performing resources required are almost as massive as a hurricane. Four string groups on-stage, four string groups in the hall, six string soloists scattered about, a wind complement mostly in threes (though including five horns), four percussionists (including three steel pan), two pianos with four players, organ, a full jazz band, a separate group of seven brass with its own drum kit, chorus, and soloists. It takes five conductors to hold this thing all together, and in this 1986 premiere performance from Stetson University, Brant himself is the primary conductor, who coordinates the whole project, presumably conducting the conductors! One would imagine from its program that the entire work would consist of nothing but the whole ensemble whirling around for its 60-minute duration, but that is oversimplifying the matter. The piece is technically a cantata, and a text describes the seven individual hurricanes in blank verse and provides the thematic thrust that moves the piece along. There are some striking moments in this piece -- there are moderately quiet passages of several groups playing together that generate positively unearthly sounds, some dark and imposing writing for the jazz band, a moving bit of writing for the chorus, and some winds in the Galveston movement that evoke a nostalgic longing for the era around 1900. "Autumn Hurricanes" ebbs and flows like a real hurricane, though much of it is texturally rather violent and one only seldom settles in the eye of the storm. The booklet could have used some more careful copyediting -- the date of the Okeechobee hurricane is given as 1828 in the content listing and 1928 in text of the piece (it was 1928.) Likewise, both 1950 and 1955 are given as the busiest hurricane season before 2005, with 11 hurricanes in all -- that was 1950. This is a university-made recording that gets overloaded in loud passages, and occasionally there's a little "thump" in the recording that sounds like someone running into the microphone. Unfortunately, the recording does not represent the spatial aspect of Brant's conception at all. A full-on digital recording of "Autumn Hurricanes" with Surround Sound technology would be an impressive thing indeed, but those who would be most interested in hearing this remarkable work won't mind the sound. "Autumn Hurricanes" is a unique and very challenging musical experience, even with the drawbacks of the recording and presentation, though the book contains two very nice illustrations by New York-based artist Linus Coraggio.
- Release Date:
- Innova Records
Performance CreditsHenry Brant Primary Artist
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