Max Richter

Max Richter: Three Worlds – Music from Woolf Works

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German-British composer Max Richter has been known mostly for his film scores. One of the best of them, that for Arrival, was heard by millions of people and was ideally timed to attract listeners to some of Richter's non-cinematic music. Three Worlds -- Music from Woolf Works was abridged from a ballet entitled Woolf Works, which consisted mostly of short chunks that work reasonably well in abstract form. Each of the work's three sections begins with a spoken quotation from Virginia Woolf herself, the first of them consisting of an actual recording of Woolf's voice from 1937; the other two are read by actresses. The rest of the movements are instrumental and are connected to a greater or lesser degree to the three novels named in the titles of the three sections, Mrs Dalloway, Orlando, and The Waves. Only the Woolf quotation for Orlando comes from the novel named in its section title. The music in that section consists of a set of variations on the Baroque-era-ground La Folia, and the medium is constantly shifting: from full orchestra to chamber instruments, solo groups, and electronic variations (the music is performed by Richter himself on piano and synthesizer, plus the Deutches Filmorchester Babelsberg and assorted other musicians). You wouldn't guess Virginia Woolf if you heard it cold, but the music is not quite like anything else you will have heard. The final section, by contrast, has a powerfully direct emotional impact. The opening reading, spoken by Gillian Anderson, is taken from Woolf's suicide note, and although Richter indicates that the rest of the music evokes the poetic mood of The Waves, its intense climax (unlike the rest of the music, this is a lengthy movement of more than 20 minutes) seems to keep the suicide note in the listener's mind. Although the work as a whole is not a film score, it has the flavor of one, and it opens up intriguing possibilities for the expansion of that language to other settings. Certainly recommended for anyone who has noticed and liked the music for Arrival.

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