As a portrait of the composer, Passion Wheels presents two sides of Christopher Rouse: the extroverted showman and the introspective, postmodern mystic. This might seem paradoxical, and as an overall assessment of the composer's changeable persona, it is possibly too broad. But the percussion pieces that frame this disc, Ku-Ka-Ilimoku and Ogoun Badagris, are undeniable showstoppers, written with attention to the audience's needs. In answer to the rhythmic ambiguity of much modern music, Rouse provides something solid for the listener to grasp. The steady beats in both of these works are unapologetically regular and exploit primal impulses that are irresistible. That they are popular with percussion ensembles and concertgoers alike should come as no surprise, for Rouse delivers much more than a bang for the buck. Yet an understanding of Rouse's output would be incomplete without some representation of his more reflective orchestral works. The Concerto Per Corde is a personal tribute to Rouse's idols, and refers directly to Shostakovich, Szöllösy, Bartók, and Mahler along its dark course. Rotae Passionis delves even deeper into the arcane sources of Rouse's inspiration and portrays the sufferings of Christ in an abstract series of meditations that stretch musical sense into an ascetic's perception of time and mystery.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Concerto per Corde (Concerto for Strings)|
|Rotae Passionis, for chamber ensemble|