Friday, March 23, 2012

CCC 023 - Christopher Rouse

American composer Christopher Rouse hasn't always written in a clear, tonal style. But everything he's written has been solidly constructed, and communicated the emotions he was trying to express. The beauty of his more accessible compositions make him the next candidate for the Consonant Classical Challenge.

To Rouse, the use of tonality is just another compositional choice, like deciding whether to use a flute or violin for a certain figure. It's not something that's necessarily hardwired into his style. And that makes Rouse's tonal compositions so moving. Because the makeup of the chords, as with every other aspect of the work, is there for a deliberate purpose. And that purpose is usually to communicate strong emotion to the audience.

His Flute Concerto demonstrates that. It's one of his concertos written in response to the passing of a musical figure close to him. Rouse calls these concertos his "Death Cycle." They end up being heartfelt elegies for a single instrument and ensemble. And the effect can be powerful.

Rouse is also a brilliant orchestrator, so not only are his harmonies carefully chosen, but every note is assigned to an instrument to give it precisely the effect he want.

Here's Rouse's First Symphony. Listen to how he uses the orchestra -- particularly the percussion section. It's a hallmark of Rouse's style.

The end result is that Rouse's music connects with audiences and communicates powerfully. As one of his more recent works, Rapture, demonstrates, that skill has only become more developed with time.

It's no surprise that several of Rouse's students, such as Michael Torke have also adapted tonality to their own purposes. Like Rouse, they create music that continues the traditions of the past without being smothered by them. Tonality provides but the context for their original thoughts.

Recommended Recordings:

Rouse: Symphony No. 2; Flute Concerto; Phaethon

Christopher Rouse: Symphony No. 1; Phantasmata

Sharon Isbin - Christopher Rouse, Tan Dun

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