David Zinman / Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Michael Torke: Color Music

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Seven of Michael Torke's most popular orchestral showstoppers are presented on this 2012 compilation in Decca's 20C series, which surveys the most important works of the 20th century. The listener who is unacquainted with Torke's eclectic and ingenious compositions will get a clear idea of their originality as well as their slickness, and the high energy of his music as a whole is likely to leave a strong impression. Torke is often superficially classed as a post-minimalist composer, but the interplay of minimalism, jazz, neo-romanticism, and popular elements puts him in a separate category that defies simplistic labeling. What is most evident is Torke's extraordinary need for speed, a preference for writing extremely propulsive music that sets him apart from most of his contemporaries, so Ecstatic Orange, Green, Ash, and Javelin are some of the fastest pieces in contemporary music, while Bright Blue Music, Purple, and Adjustable Wrench are only slightly less frenetic and volatile. The performances by David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Kent Nagano and the London Sinfonietta, and Yoel Levy and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra are bright and vigorous, and the digital recordings from the 1990s sound great, with little variability of quality or volume.

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