Otto Ketting

Otto Ketting: Symphony No. 3; The Light of the Sun

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Otto Ketting, born in 1935, is the most profound of the living Dutch composers, and certainly the most prolific of his generation. Symphony #3 is based on a small quotation; the last, in fact, given by a terminally ill Maurice Ravel to his secretary, the final chord of an orchestral song. Ketting has used this quote literally, not as impressionist device, but as an orchestral strategy for the definition of a new tonality centering on the three parts of the symphony. The first part is in A major, the second in D flat major, and the last in both A and D flat as strings, oboes, and, of all things, a vibraharp build upon Ravel's chord, the notion of impressionist ambience is canceled out and a true proliferation of harmonic drama fills the sonic cavern. This is an essay on symphonic forms, which also touches on Mahler in the adagio section and back to Ravel in the space where the two tonalities meet and the finale, which is breathtaking in its color and spaciousness. On "The Light of the Sun," Ketting looks back to the past again, but this time not only the music past, but also the ancient past, to Egypt, and the quest for the life that began after death. The libretto for this six-song cycle comes from Egyptian poetry dating from 1500 B.C, and is set with semi quavers and near overtonal horn figures that are accented by marimbas and bells. Ms. Lopez's singing with its determined and otherworldly approach gives the piece a disorienting, feeling, one of familiar strangeness, unsettling yet full of warmth and depth and dimension. Her voice is gorgeous, wringing emotion, and warning from these ancient texts as the orchestra plays sparely at first and then cacophonously toward the middle and end of the cycle signifying eternal rebirth. The sound is stellar, warm, and full range. We're lucky to have such a recording, prepared and performed (at least in part) by the master himself.

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