Friday, March 27, 2015

CCC 127 - Robert Groslot

Dutch composer Robert Groslot is the focus of this week's Consonant Classical Challenge. The goal of this series is to hold up living composers writing accessible music of quality in some form of tonal language. That doesn't mean the music has to be pretty-sounding, though.

Groslot's music is tonal, but it's not easy listening by any means. He uses short, chromatic motifs to build his works, motifs with a strong tonal underpinning. His harmonies are also chromatically related, (rather than by the standard intervals of the major and minor systems). Still, the listener is never lost in a Groslot work (or at least, I wasn't). Groslot's style provides plenty of reference points along the way to keep the listener following the development of his ideas.

His Suite for Flute and Piano provides a good introduction to Groslot's music. The structural aspects of his composition is laid bare by the sparse instrumentation. Still, there is a good deal of complexity in this work as the melodic fragments come together.

Groslot's chamber work, "The Phoenician Sailor," is similar in style. Here the melodic elements are distributed among the various instruments, gradually coming together as the piece progresses.

A major part of Robert Groslot's catalog is made up of concertos. Like Paul Hindemith, he seems to have written a concerto for just about every instrument in the orchestra (and then some). According to his website, each concerto is designed to be "very challenging and inspirational pieces for the performer, and are written in a personal and accessible style."

In the Concerto for Marimba, Vibes, and Concert Band, note how the soloist is required to manage two instruments at once. And yet the music flows naturally without pause, and without calling attention to the physical challenges of the performance.

The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra may have a more traditional ensemble makeup, but Groslot treats it in a highly original manner. Listen closely to the unusual percussion instruments he adds to the mix. That, plus the pairing of instruments within the orchestra are critical parts of Groslot's musical identity.

In my opinion, the music of Robert Groslot shows that tonality isn't a dead end. His use of key centers would be completely foreign to composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries, but that's the point. Groslot is living now, and his music reflects the sensibilities of the current world, not that of the previous centuries.

Not many works by Groslot have been recorded, and of the ones that have, not many are still in print. But Robert Groslot has posted sound files for several of his works on his website. It's there that you'll be able to more fully explore this composer's catalog.

Recommended recordings

FONTYN: Piano Works

Robert Groslot Conducts His Concertos With Concert

Robert Groslot: Works for Clarinet

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