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Torke: Rapture / An American Abroad [CD]

Michael Torke , Marin Alsop , Royal Scottish National Orchestra , Colin Currie , Colin Currie Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Performer: Colin Currie
  • Orchestra: Royal Scottish National Orchestra
  • Conductor: Marin Alsop
  • Composer: Michael Torke
  • Audio CD (4 Nov 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00006S1WW
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 217,386 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. An American Abroad
2. Jasper
3. Rapture

Product Description

CD Composer: Torke,Michael

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost too good to be true? 22 Feb 2010
By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
I love the music of Michael Torke but it's almost like a guilty pleasure. It is so consistently and persistently, joyous, cheerful and positive. Not just some or most of it, but all of it, without exception. There is never a cloud in the sky, never a shadow falls. All is always right and well in Torke's world. The closest he gets to darkness is the odd moment of nostalgia, which is always of the fondest sort. There is such a wonderful spirit to his music, and heaven knows that the poor old world could do with much more of its kind. But the jaded cynic in me cannot help but sometimes wonder if it is quite real, or should I say realistic? Whither the Sturm und Drang? How does the Romantic hero triumph over insuperable odds without first plumbing the depths of defeat and despair? One finds none of these things in Torke, because it is the music of a man that knows exactly how lucky he is, and is appropriately grateful. As such it is supremely sane music, almost too sane for the human condition. Torke is perhaps the wise Zen sage who shows the world to be as beautiful as the eyes with which we look at it.

The first of the three works on this disc, An American Abroad, is my current favourite. Plenty of big tunes and a joyful noise that make this great housework music, but also rich enough in musical content to reward a more focussed listening. Despite being a one movement work it breaks down into three clearly distinguishable thematic sections. The two outer 'movements' are so hugely optimistic, that one is set to wondering if it is the composers of ascendant imperialist powers that get to write all the most bright and positive tunes. These outer sections sandwich an achingly romantic central section, that is more than a little reminiscent of golden era Hollywood.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly listenable and charming 5 Jan 2004
By David B VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD
Another triumph for Naxos, in their American Classics series. The music here is accessible and very enjoyable. It isn't often these days that this reviewer finds tears welling up at a new musical discovery, but it's happened with An American Abroad. Super playing by orchestra throughout, and by Colin Currie in percussion concerto. (I'm not in general a great fan of percussion, but thoroughly enjoy this piece).
The great thing about Naxos pricing is that you can afford to take a risk with music you don't know. How glad I am that I did with this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Torke 17 Nov 2013
By Rene
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
What a find! I purchased this initially because it was conducted by Marin Alsop who I admire. It is a wonderful recording
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully joyful 4 Nov 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This CD is packed with exuberant, joyful modern music. I bought it because I love Colin Currie's percussion though I had never heard anything of Michael Torke before and neither disappointed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yowza! 24 Jan 2003
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Poor Michael Torke has a hard time being taken seriously, largely because he writes uniformly optimistic, pop-tinged, lively, soul-easing music. But then Gershwin had the same problem in his era. Torke's time will come, I strongly suspect. And this release will help.
Someone has called him 'the American Ravel'. That's over-reaching a bit, but I can see their point. Torke is a master orchestrator (possibly the best currently working in America, although John Adams is right up there with him), and there is an insouciance that we generally associate with 20th-century French composers. He can write a meltingly beautiful tune, and he is a master of complex recognizably _American_ rhythms, some of them Latin American. He has been fortunate to have had wonderful recordings of his music; I'm thinking now of that string of Argo releases featuring David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony.
For several years Torke was composer-in-residence for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and all three pieces on this CD were written for them. The title of the first, 'An American Abroad', reminds us of Gershwin's 'An American in Paris', but that's about the only similarity - and there are no taxi horns in the score! The predominant feeling in this 21 minute piece is that of an American, fresh-faced, curious, nave, full of wonder wandering from place to place in a journey abroad. There are some invigorating rhythms (always a feature of Torke's music) and a middle section, rather more reflective, that has one of Torke's patented tunes, the kind that get in your head and won't leave you alone. There is a touch of melancholy in this section; it made me think of the sadness of leaving wonderful travels behind when it's time to go home. But then there is the excitement of going back to familiar places and people. Hmmm, I've just described a 21st Century tone-poem, haven't I? Liszt and Richard Strauss would be proud.
The shorter second piece, 'Jasper', is a set of informal variations on a simple tune, one that uses each of the notes of the diatonic scale only once. The tune gets dressed up in varying rhythms and instrumentation, but retains its recognizability.
The final piece, the longest on the disc at 28 minutes, is a percussion concerto, entitled 'Rapture', written for and performed by the brilliant young (very young: he's only 26, and was only 23 when he premièred it) Colin Currie. A percussionist friend tells me that 'he beats Evelyn Glennie all hollow'; I'm not prepared to say that, but he certainly is hugely talented. I only wish I could _see_ him performing the piece. The concerto has an unusual form in that each of the three movements features a different subset of the percussion family. The first is subtitle 'Drums and Woods', the second 'Mallets', and the last 'Metals'. You get the idea. Needless to say, Torke's rhythmic vitality and ingenuity get a real workout here. The insistent rhythm in the first movement leads eventually to a kind of hypnotic state in the listener, the 'Rapture' of the title. This, in itself, is not my own cup of tea, but I did get caught up in the jittery excitement of it all. The second movement, the one with mallet instruments, is less frenetic and more intrinsically melodic, lots of deep marimba, lots of chords of the ninth. I will admit that it was my favorite; I guess I'd been a bit worn out by the first movement. But we're off to the races again, this time with a salsa beat, in movement three and the whole thing ends up in a flurry almost unbelievable virtuosity on the part of Currie. Hoo boy!
One personal note: whenever I am really down and am having real trouble remembering that this is a wonderful world, I often put on something of Torke's - my long-time favorite has been 'Javelin', which he wrote on commission for the Atlanta Olympic Games (and which they inexplicably did not use!) - and my spirits come bubbling up; it is simply impossible for me to stay down with this music in the air.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Torke and the rebirth of art music 11 Dec 2003
By Jim Rickman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The cacophony in art music that prevailed for most of the 20th century can now be seen as simply an expansion of the musical pallette and a taming of technique under the rigors of admittedly academic formalisms. Unfortunately for composers who have embraced the methods of Second Viennese School, the devotees and listeners of "classical" music have found it exceedingly difficult, sometimes excruciating, and usually quite unsatisfying to relate to the skewed sounds of the dodecaphonic/cacophonic music, no matter how much the composers of that music write articles about how tightly and logically constructed their music is and how incredibly ingenious their "solutions" have been. Ultimately, most of this music has been a monologue the composer did with himself/herself and the narrow group of those who "understood" his/her music.
Ultimately, music should communicate without the need for programmatic essays by the composer. If the music doesn't convey its meaning and wholeness to its listeners beyond the printed word, then it will cease to be listened to. That's a fact of life, especially with music being played in concert halls. The new movement among composers of art music toward more tonally conceived sounds is an acknowledgement of that truth. Tonal music has a basis in harmonics that 12-tone music and freer cacophony lack - while tonal music sounds natural, the other seems artificially contrived. It also hasn't helped that most of the dodecaphonic/cacophonic music, lacking any understandable reference points for most listeners, sounds dark, brooding, pessimistic, and ultimately incomprehensible.
Having written all this, I should also let those reading this know that I once spent many years writing in the 12-tone style and mannerisms of the 2nd Viennese School. Having spent a lot of time with this sound, I have developed an understanding and appreciation for the music of Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and others who spent most of their lives writing in this style. But communicating with audiences has been extremely problematic - the sounds come off as strange and, because of that, hides whatever the composer wanted to say...
However, the music of Michael Torke, and the more tonal music of others over the last decade or so, is immediately approachable and quite often satisfying. Really, art music does not have to be difficult sounding or somehow beyond the pale of human experience to be masterful. After listening to Torke and others who write with more tonal sounds, you leave the concert hall with the sense that much of what you heard found an immediate and unspoken understanding within you. And that's what music should do - COMMUNICATE
The 3 pieces of music on this CD are well-conceived and thoroughly enjoyable. Also highly recommended is Torke's "Book of Proverbs; Four Proverbs". As an introduction to his music, one has only to listen to "Book of Proverbs: Opening" to come away with a smile and an abiding interest in his music. Michael Torke should be taken very seriously by all of us who are optimistic about the future of art music.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weak compared to other releases of Torke 17 Jun 2004
By C. P. Cooman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Unfortunately, the offerings on this CD are not anywhere near as strong as Torke's best music -- from the 80's and early 90's. Thankfully, the wonderful recordings of those pieces have been re-released on Ecstatic Records (Torke's own label).
In particularly, look out for "Four Proverbs", "Book of Proverbs", "Saxophone Concerto", and some of his shorter concert overtures such as "Javelin" and "Run."
Skip this Naxos disc and explore his other recordings for a better introduction to the zestful and exciting music of this composer.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing! 19 July 2004
By Sam Bridges - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Mr. Torke is perhaps the most gifted melodist working in classical music today. If you listen to this CD or any other one by Torke (I can recommend OVERNIGHT MAIL) you will remember what you heard. Sometimes maybe only and hour later or even a week, but you will remember. His music is not easily forgotten like Joan Tower or Glass or Adams. I look forward to hearing a more formal work from this great artist. Yep,I think you will like it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Torke the Mystic 15 Mar 2011
By Dr. Debra Jan Bibel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
In the 1980s, Michael Torke came onto the classical musical scene as a breath of fresh air: pieces that were popularly appreciated, emotional, rhythmic AND lyrical, and brief that lent themselves to ballet. This was his color music, his ecstatic music. But time goes on and the artist ages, develops, matures, and reevaluates. The works here of 1998 to 2001 have a different agenda: the journey, the ritual, and transcendence. Even so, Torke still revolves around joy, and An American Abroad can be viewed as the adventure and satisfaction of traveling, meeting challenges, witnessing novel sights, people, and events, and reflecting on them with nostalgia. A romantic mystic quest begins with such a trek. Jasper, the second work of this album, honors creativity itself, the ceaseless production of variety from permutations and combinations, here of a single melody. Jasper is quartz that may vary in hue, typically in warm reds, yellows, and browns. Rapture is attained through percussion, like the shaman's drum, and after letting go to the rhythm and to the sound, a new perspective opens. The Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra is another journey. Its music is a bright dance, a romp, an absorbing ritual of rhythm. Colin Currie, a member of the Steve Martland band, performs all the percussion, a noble feat, meaning drums, wood blocks, marimba, bells, cymbals, and other metallic percussive instruments. Alsop conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with flair. I like this middle-aged Torke. The fun continues.
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