Jonathan Nott / David Robertson / Bamberger Symphoniker / Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

Michael Gordon: Dystopia

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Michael Gordon: Dystopia Review

by Blair Sanderson

Call it postminimalist, totalist, or maximalist, the orchestral music of Bang on a Can co-founder Michael Gordon is big, loud, frenzied, and assertive, jam-packed with stylistic references, dense with inventive orchestration, and overflowing with virtuoso activity. Dystopia, performed by David Robertson and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is a kaleidoscopic portrait of the city of Los Angeles, created in collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison. This live recording of the work's premiere at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, January 12, 2008, captures the energy and spontaneity of the music, which at times is quite reminiscent of the hubbub of the Shrovetide Fair in Stravinsky's Petrushka, though one must imagine that the listening experience with the film was overwhelming. In contrast, Rewriting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony is not so much a wall of sound as a multi-layered gloss on its original material, an echo of Beethoven's music warped and reshaped through glissandi, microtones, clusters, montage, and other modern techniques. Commissioned by Jonathan Nott and the Bamberger Symphoniker, this work was recorded in concert on September 30, 2006, and the performance at the Beethovenfest Bonn is as boisterous and volatile as Dystopia, though perhaps less dense for the periodic windows that expose Beethoven's music. While these frenetically paced pieces will be most appreciated by adventurous listeners, Gordon provides enough handholds in the music so even casual listeners can find places to grab on for the wild ride.

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