John Corigliano: Conjurer; Vocalise

John Corigliano: Conjurer; Vocalise

by Evelyn GlennieEvelyn Glennie


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Even though John Corigliano has proved himself time and again to be a master of instrumental colors and orchestration, he nonetheless had misgivings about composing a concerto for percussion, a daunting prospect merely because of the large number of instruments at his disposal. Yet Corigliano succeeded brilliantly in "Conjurer" (2007), the tour de force he composed for Evelyn Glennie, who is universally recognized as the world's foremost percussion virtuoso. And it's all on display in this head-spinning demonstration of percussion instruments, designated in separate families as wood, metal, and skin, with each movement anticipated by a preparatory cadenza. Glennie not only sets the pace in these free-ranging cadenzas, but also provides material for the string orchestra to reiterate and develop, to astounding results. The second piece on this disc is "Vocalise" (1999), a work for soprano Hila Plitmann and electronics, produced and performed by Mark Baechle. Here, Corigliano exploits the voice's flexibility of pitch and tonal control through the layering of electronic sounds, coinciding with the wordless melody and expanding into a surprisingly effective orchestral accompaniment. The Albany Symphony, conducted by David Alan Miller, is the orchestra in question, and the deep and resonant sonorities it produces are a vibrant background that lets Glennie and Plitmann shine.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/24/2013
Label: Naxos American
UPC: 0636943975725
catalogNumber: 8559757
Rank: 139711


  1. Vocalise, for voice, electronics & orchestra
  2. Conjurer, concerto for percussionist & string orchestra (with optional brass)

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John Corigliano: Conjurer; Vocalise 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
RGraves321 More than 1 year ago
This new recording brings together two unusual additions to John Corigliano's repertoire. "Conjurer" is a percussion concerto composed for Evelyn Glennie (who performs on this release). The work has six sections: three cadenzas, and three movements, labeled Wood, Metal, and Skin. Each movement uses percussion instruments only belonging to its own group. Corigliano blends tonal and non-tonal percussion instruments with alacrity. Each cadenza leads into a movement where the string orchestra further develops the themes, along with the soloist. It's an effective work when done well -- and in this recording, it's done very well. "Vocalise" is the older of the two works, being completed in 1999. This challenging work for soprano, electronics and orchestra plays against audience expectations. When the piece begins, it sounds like a typical contemporary work. The melody seems to skip all over the place, the electronics add a strangeness and artificiality to the sound, and the orchestra bloops and bleeps away with tone clusters and glissandi. But very soon things start to change. Like a flower blossoming, the work opens up. The melody becomes more tonal, the electronics more subtle, and the ensemble more expansive. It ends quietly, having made the journey through the full potential of the human voice. The Albany symphony performs admirably in both works. Soprano Hila Plitmann has a pure sustained tone that gives her performance an ethereal quality -- one in keeping with the intent of "Vocalise." Recommended.
DanClarino More than 1 year ago
Fascinating works from this American original. There is simply no denying that John Corigliano has been one of our finest and most unique composers for a long time now. His scores are known for their exotic orchestrations and brilliantly written harmonies that draw from any sources and musical traditions that serve the tone of the work. Corigliano frequently writes music that has an impulsive, restless quality to it. The very connotation of the title "Conjurer" makes one think of tribal ritual, pagan celebrations and shamanistic settings that may bring to mind his score to the Ken Russell, "Altered States", as just one example. The percussion concerto, "Conjurer" does contain some of the same wild picturesque sounds that one expects but is, first and foremost, a stunning showpiece for Dame Evelyn Glennie, the Scottish virtuoso who has virtually redefined music for multiple percussion and orchestra. Many composers have written showpieces for her and this is one of the most compelling. Corigliano's work is divided into three movements, featuring the three principle timbres obtainable in typical struck percussion: woods, metals and skins; separated by three cadenzas. The work is also amazingly scored in a somewhat typical concerto fashion (fast-slow-fast) wherein the orchestral timbres are blended to meet some of the percussion's sounds. This is a very fine work that, as in all Corigliano scores, contains musical moments that range from sad to plaintive to ominous to startling. This disc also features the composer's "Vocalise" for soprano and orchestra. This too is an absolutely amazing work in which the soprano sings a true word-less vocalise but with amplification, multiple speakers and even a "loop" created in each performance that both the soloist and the orchestra creates and plays with and against. The work grows increasingly more complex and kinetic and then gradually disintegrates into a hum that surrounds the audience. This work was written for the New York Philharmonic on the occasion of the millennium. Corigliano's inspiration was Marshall McLuhan's quote/theory that "the medium is the message." In this case the medium of the human voice is transformed and treated as its own medium for something larger and more organic. Soprano Hilda Plitmann has worked with Corigliano on many occasions including her work in the stunning "Mr. Tambourine Man", after lyrics by Bob Dylan. Everything about this album impressed me. I admit I expected it to because I have admired Mr. Corigliano's work for a long time and he is one of those composers whose music has never disappointed me. If you are not at all familiar with his music, this disc is an excellent first exposure to his imaginative and emotional power.