Michael Torke: Tahiti
10/10 Ensemble of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
Clark Rundell, conductor
This release pairs two Michael Torke works inspired by the South Seas – “Tahiti” and “Fiji.” Besides the geographical connection, it’s a logical program choice. Both works were written for a small chamber orchestra, and both have a similar feel.
“Fiji” is a 17-minute composition that pulls the listener into a Martin Denny-style Quiet Village world. This bouncy little samba just cooks right along. The sparse orchestration coupled with the steady pulse reminded me of Philip Glass, but Torke’s music is much more animated. And “Fiji” glitters with catchy and attractive melodies that enchant the ear.
The eight-part composition “Tahiti” is something of a musical travelogue. Each movement represents part of the Tahitian landscape. And while the overall mood of the work is more laid back than “Fiji,” each section has its own character.
Moorea (green cliffs) is languid and lyrical, Raiatea (town square) bustles with relaxed activity, while Huahine (under the moonlight) is downright sensual. Torke uses his stripped-down ensemble to great effect. While the music is orchestral in nature, the sound remains very transparent – as clear as the water in a Polynesian lagoon.
While superficially both “Fiji” and “Tahiti” seem to be light-hearted works (on par with Mozart serenades), they aren’t totally lightweight. Both compositions offer enough substance to merit repeated listening. Which means I’ll be returning to "Tahiti" again sometime soon.