Notes and Editorial Reviews
Book of Hours.
Jeremy Gill (pn);
Jonathan Hays (bar)
ALBANY TROY1262 (58:53)
Jeremy Gill is a Philadelphia-based composer, pianist, and conductor, and a protégé of George Crumb. He also worked closely with the late master
George Rochberg in the last years of his life. As an avid consumer and regular chronicler of the Philly new music scene, I have heard a fair amount of Gill’s music, and have become acquainted with the man himself. I am quite impressed with the power and craft of his work, which is certainly reminiscent of the broadly historical sensibility of Crumb, including an ambitious evocation of the ancient power of music’s most basic elements, rhythm and sound. Gill is especially interested in the shape and placement of sound in his music, with a keen ear for exotic sonorities.
That esthetic is on full display in his piano writing.
Book of Hours
is an excellent new work for solo piano, certainly worthy of wider circulation. It is, formally, an eight-section piece of taut construction, inspired by the medieval book of prayers of the same name. I have heard it performed live, by Chinese-born pianist Feifei Zhang, who is on the staff of the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. Her brave performance, coupled with the very lively acoustics of the school’s main recital hall, gave the music a more dynamic profile than we hear with Peter Orth (who premiered the work in 2010). She expertly used the damper pedal to create overlapping sustained tones, allowing for a gauzy reverberation that mimicked the polyphonic sound of monks’ voices bouncing about a vast stone cathedral. Such is the magic of live performance. But Orth fully engages this lively, intensely imaginative score, drawing a nearly symphonic range of color and timbre out of the piano. It is good to have this recording, and I hope that other adventuresome pianists will bring this music before the public.
Book of Hours
recalls a range of music from medieval chant to Messiaen and beyond, the song cycle
seems firmly planted in the mid 19th-century German Lieder tradition. If it seems a tad pretentious for an American composer to set German-language poetry (the texts are by Austrian writer Georg Trakl), be assured that Gill has a superb ear for the shape and rhythm of the language. An English translation would negatively alter the impact of the work. The music has an ease and self-assurance that falls easily on the ear, and the sound of German is central to that construction. Gill captures the narrative of the words with a dramatic intuition that honors Schubert. Jonathan Hays conveys the words, not just the music, with intelligence and careful diction, not to mention a splendidly lush baritone. The 2010 premiere of the cycle, which I attended, was sung by a mezzo, the wonderful Maren Montalbano. Either range carries the theatrical heft of the work, assuming the requisite abilities of the artist.
Jeremy Gill is a comer in the world of new music. He is, like the best of his contemporaries, unconcerned with stylistic battles concerning things like tonality, historicism, or audience pandering. He uses whatever tools are available and useful, and has managed to find his own voice. It is one well worth listening to.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
Works on This Recording
Book of Hours by Jeremy Gill
Peter Orth (Piano)
Period: 21st Century
Helian by Jeremy Gill
Jonathan Hays (Baritone),
Jeremy Gill (Piano)
Period: 21st Century
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