Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes – Danny Ashkenasi (text: Rainer Maria Rilke)
It’s been four weeks since the public evaluation phase of the Carl Orff Competition went live, with two more weeks to go. I posted my blog piece about the competition parameters and my entry “Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes” and put the word out to friends and family. Among the many kind responses that came my way, Aunt Azzie’s (AKA Alice Leake) succinct and evocative appreciation (reprinted above) is everything I could have wished for and then some.
Thanks, Azzie, your check is in the mail.
The Carl Orff Competition urges the public to “Please be fair! Vote for at least five entries and look at as many composers as possible.” In a newsletter they make the same appeal so that “in the end, the best composers win and not the best marketing specialists. ;-)”
Marketing specialists? Indeed, there are five or six entries that have amassed such a huge amount of page views that they leave all other competitors far behind. The implication being that even with the competition purveyors hoping to even out the playing field by favoring ratings from those who evaluate multiple entries, a huge “fan base” is likely to overtake all other factors. (I should add that of the 10 finalists, five will be chosen by the public vote, while the other five will be chosen by a jury.)
With that in mind, I thought I would highlight a half dozen or so entries that perhaps for lack of marketing muscle currently sit among the lowest page view counts in the competition so far, but which I found particularly accomplished, lovely, smart or all three in one. Caveat, these aren’t the only pieces I really enjoyed, just a few of the ones I have heard so far that deserve a bit more attention.
Jelle Vansielegham’s composition is, in a word, lovely. Comfortably residing in the tradition of french impressionists. A moving, deeply expressive vocal line flows over excitedly murmuring harp arpeggios.
Like most competition entries, Vansielegham’s recording is computer generated and doesn’t include a sung vocal line. Instead a natural sounding cello takes its place, and you must read the score to see how well the words are supported by the beautifully rendered melody lines. The entry page is here.
Alessio Ferrante’s musical language suggests a performance as it might have occurred in ancient Greece itself. The main descending theme heard in the voice and the harp repeatedly evokes the ultimate descent back in the Underworld that will inevitably follow after the song’s subtle and sad conclusion. Here is his entry page.
Jack Ballard’s score also employs a descending theme evoking ancient times, but deftly melds those ideas with jazz guitar like syncopations. His rendering of the Spanish language version of Rilke’s poem can be found here.
Luis Emilio Navarro also set the Spanish version of the poem. His experience with the electric guitar appears to have influenced the composition, creating a dynamic piece that might feel as much at home in a modern classical chamber music hall as a prog rock arena concert. Check it out here.
East meets West in Soojin Cho’s dramatic composition. In her interpretation of the English translation of the poem, she skillfully combines bold pianoforte flourishes with a vocal line like a wistful Asian folk song, which you may listen to and read here.
Jörn Tegtmeyer includes eerily flowing falsetto passages and very specific stage directions for the baritone in his score, including having him at times sit on a stool with his back to the audience. The music reminds me of atonal cabaret a la “Pierrot Lunaire”, which makes this piece come across like the love child of Arnold Schönberg and Samuel Beckett. I would like to see this performed live by a skillful actor/singer. Check out the computer performance and read the score here.
I debated within myself whether to include Lizaveta Loban in this round up of competition underdogs, not because I don’t value her entry as highly as the others, I do, but because she actually has a chunk more page view counts than them (as does Soojin Cho too, if to a lesser degree); but I didn’t want to end up with a collection of just men. I also wanted to include at least one entry that included a recording of an actual singer performing, not a computer voice. Loban’s piece, which you can access here, is wonderfully haunting, as if intoned in a grotto or cavernous underworld passageway.
And there we have them, a baker’s half dozen of Carl Orff Competition entries. Not the only ones I particularly enjoyed, but among those, a handful that I thought so far may have not quite received the public attention they deserve. Not that I expect my little blog piece to make more than a symbolic, personal difference.