MATTHEW FIELDS: Double Cluster; Space Sciences – Gloria Chuang, p./ Moravian Phil. Orch./ Jan Kučera – Centaur

MATTHEW FIELDS: Double Cluster; Space Sciences – Gloria Chuang, p./ Moravian Philharmonic Orch./ Jan Kučera – Centaur CRC 3433 [Distr. by Naxos], (8/14/15) ***1/2:

Complex but fascinating works inspired by deep space.

Matthew Fields was a very interesting composer and amateur astronomer. To be frank, that’s what drew me to this recording for I share his love of space beauty. Additionally, I just discovered that he just passed away on February 7, 2016; precisely one week ago of this writing. So, in some ways, this very fine CD also serves as a bit of a memorial.

People like Fields amazing me, actually, because he was a multi-talented man who held degrees in music from Stanford and DMA from the University of Michigan; but also in mathematics. While classical music was his love, his full time occupation for many years was as a programmer and IT specialist for the Michigan hospital system. His love for space science and apparently a great depth of knowledge also inspired many works such as the two here.

A look at his website reveals that he was also very selective and self-critical of his own music, making available only the pieces he was most fond of and discarding or putting away many others.

Both works here, Double Cluster for piano and orchestra and Space Sciences for orchestra are complex, thorny and seemingly difficult pieces. Fields’ music in both venues seems to acknowledge the mystery and inscrutability of the heavens. Yet, these two works are quite different and show us a very eclectic side of Fields. Double Cluster uses the imagery of dual galaxies (in this case, his inspiration was the double NGC in Perseus) to pit the very difficult piano part against an orchestral backdrop that seems to force them to battle for prominence.

The forty-seven minute, four-movement suite, Space Sciences, is essentially a grand tribute to the astronomical skies with movements such as “Insomniac Sky” and “Delights, Refracted and Reflected.” This work is dense and complicated, as well, but is quite beautiful, almost Impressionistic in places.

Stylistically, it is impossible to declare Matthew H. Fields. Double Cluster is tough, dense and somewhat Ligeti-like in spots. Space Sciences is highly eclectic, with touches of Scriabin and even film music throughout. But I enjoyed both these works, especially Space Sciences.

Being who, where and what Matthew Fields was, I am not sure what legacy he leaves as a composer. Even if this recording of these two very interesting works is all that people hear, it serves well as an inkling into this person who seems like the modern Renaissance man.

—Daniel Coombs

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