Friday, May 11, 2012

CCC 030 - David Del Tredici

The next composer in our Consonant Classical Challenge series is David Del Tredici. Aaron Copland liked him, calling Del Tredici "a creator with a truly original gift." And no wonder. Del Tredici has an affinity for the human voice, and most of his works are either for voice and chamber ensemble, or voice and orchestra.

David Del Tredici's music is similar to Leonard Bernstein's in that it falls somewhere between Broadway and the concert hall. Like Bernstein (and Copland), Del Tredici writes in an American style, although it's difficult to say exactly where the "Americanisms" are in his music. One of the best examples of his work is "Final Alice," an opera meant to be performed in a concert setting.

Although Del Tredici favors the human voice, he is equally accomplished at writing just for instruments. His work "In Wartime" for wind ensemble demonstrates his compositional skill. As the title suggests, this is a dramatic work with powerful emotions that Del Tredici effectively conveys while using a mostly conservative musical idiom.

"Tattoo" is one of Del Tredici's works for full orchestra. Will it appeal to everyone? The musical language is certainly familiar, but this is not a work that sits in the corner and provides some nice easy listening. Del Tredici's compositions demand the audience's full attention -- and rewards that attention with well-crafted and emotionally fulfilling music.

Although David Del Tredici is better known in vocal circles, there's no reason (that I can hear) why his works shouldn't be performed regularly in the concert hall. Del Tredici's music shares some elements with that of modern Broadway. And that makes his music relevant to contemporary audiences. Yet it's still mainstream enough to be understandable to more traditional-minded classical audiences. After all, Copland liked Del Tredici...

Recommended Recordings

Tredici: Final Alice

Del Tredici: In Memory of a Summer Day

Tredici: Steps For Orchestra/Haddock's Eyes

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:45 PM

    TATTOO is a 1-movement symphonic piece lasting exactly 18 minutes. TATTOO is completely instrumental, as is Mr. Del Tredici's composition "STEPS." Unlike FINAL ALICE, and unlike STEPS, it is the case that TATTOO is sparse in individualism. In other words, we do not find excerpts where any of the woodwinds or brass particularly stand out, either as solo instruments, duets, or as part of a small ensemble that is carved out from within the larger orchestra. TATTOO takes the approach of providing continuous sheets of sound. The result is a jagged landscape of continuous sonic curtains, resembling the noisier parts of BROWNING OVERTURE by Charles Ives. In fact, for people who love Browning Overture (as I do), the compositions that are closest to this include TATTOO and perhaps SUN TREADER by Charles Ruggles.

    TATTOO begins with some stuttering huffs from the tubas and stringed basses. At 15 seconds, a tambourine provides a jingling chatter, and at 42 seconds comes an oriental-sounding cymbal crash. The low-throated stuttering barks continue and at 45 seconds, the barking is overlaid with French horn moanings and then trumpets. At 2 minutes and 20 seconds, and at 2 min, 25 sec, come jazzy-sounding raspberries from the brass section. The piece continues with curtains of sound, layered on top of each other. There is really no overt rhythm, except for the aleatory grunts from the stuttering stringed basses. Of course, the fact that the lowest registers of the orchestra play aleatory stutterings is intentional (my remarks are adulatory, not critical).

    At 5 min, 50 sec comes a short busy section sounding like a distant calliope. Then, the curtains of sound resume, and the listener is subjected to repeated sheets of sound that churn and fluctuate like ocean waves periodically crashing against a rocky cliff. At eight minutes, comes a quiet part, sounding somewhat like the opening notes of Mahler's Ninth. At 10 min, 5 sec, the woodwinds provide a partial quote from Paganini's 24th Caprice. This quotation reminds me of the echos of bird calls off of Yosemite's Half Dome, as can be heard every morning at dawn. At this point in TATTOO, the quotation is buried by the rest of the orchestra, and only people familiar with Paganini's 24th Caprice will be aware of what is really going on. At 11 min, 25 sec, the quotation occurs in its entirety, not in any fragmentary form, and at this point, the Paganini tune dominates over the orchestra. At 12 minutes, the fragmentary version is repeated. At 14 min, 30 sec, begins a noisy descending motif.

    To conclude, if you are a fan of Charles Ives, and wish that Mr. Ives had composed more of what is found in BROWNING OVERTURE and in the Ives FOURTH SYMPHONY, then TATTOO by David Del Tredici will likely be more than satisfactory to you. I also recommend Lutoslawski's version of the Paganini 24th Caprice. The Lutoslawski piece is one of the most amusing and playful compositions in the realm of classical music. Signed, Tom Brody, Ph.D. (May 1, 2014)