Friday, March 21, 2014

Barihunk Nathan Wyatt to premiere Nico Muhly piece

Nathan Wyatt
Barihunk Nathan Wyatt will premiere Nico Muhly's Pleasure Ground tonight as part of the  MusicNOW Festival with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Pleasure Ground depicts the life of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. Tickets are available online.

According to the composer:
"The title Pleasure Ground is a musical joke, a ground being a  recurring bass line that gives structure and melodic content at the same time. I use several grounds in this piece, but the third movement is particularly devoted to one cycle of 13 chords. At first, the ground is hidden inside a chorale-like texture of strings, over which violent brass and percussion snarl and fight. As the baritone sings about nature having overrun his designs, some small ensembles of instruments echo the voice: a bass trombone, sometimes, and others, a little gamelan of harp, bells and winds.
On the text “I have done a great deal of work in my life...” we first hear the ground bass in its proper position: at the bottom of the orchestra. It goes through two cycles, and suddenly transforms into the material from the very opening of the first movement, but here transformed from youthful optimism into something melancholic and halting. The piece ends with a delicate, drone-like texture under the words, “If man is not to live by bread alone, what is better worth doing well than the planting of trees?” This text slowly unfurls over a chordal drone, illuminated from within by slowly shifting woodwinds and from without by celeste, glockenspiel and harp. The idea here is an ideal garden: designed but not fussed-with, communal, and fragilely eternal."

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