MICHAEL GANDOLFI: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation – Orchestral Suite in 3 Parts – Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Robert Spano – Telarc

by | Feb 28, 2008 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

MICHAEL GANDOLFI: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation – Orchestral Suite in 3 Parts – Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Robert Spano – Telarc multichannel SACD-60696, 67:36 *****:

This is a world premiere recording and the first recording of a major orchestral work by composer Gandolfi, who brings some fresh and accessible sounds to American symphonic music.  The garden in question is not just a fantasy – though it is also a sort of fantasy – but exists as such in Southern Scotland.  It is full of unusual features, earthworks and sculpture which are intended to act as metaphors for modern science’s discoveries about human life and the physics of our universe. The new sciences developed with the aid of the computer, are emphasized – including discoveries about water flow, soil movement and weather patterns. The creation of an American architect, Charles Jenicks, the Garden employs features suggested by wave theory, subatomic particles, the diversity of DNA, string theory, the Big Bang and expansion of our universe, and much more. He’s published a book about his Garden, with the same title, that explains its concept in detail.

Gandolfi has added movements to his suite just as Jenicks has added new features to his garden.  He sees the music as flexible, intending that conductors can select and order their own assembly of movements, “choosing their own pathway thru the garden.”  Each of the three parts on this recording are introduced by natural bird sounds recorded in Scotland in surround sound. One example of a Garden feature and the music for it is The Willowtwist.  It’s a shiny metal sculpture something like a Mobius strip, but with more complex curves and twists in it. It’s music is a twisting, cyclical piece whose surface details are also circular. Gandolfi calls it “An Exuberantly Whirling Dance.”

Part 2 is divided between The Universe Cascade and the Garden of the Senses Suite – a neo-Baroque suite of dances which all quote the music of Bach. The physical counterpart of the first piece is a cascade down a stairway, interrupted by frequent landings inscribed with events in the history of the universe from the Big Bang to the present.  So the music traces the flow of Western music’s history using a long series of quick quotations – beginning with a Gregorian chant from c. 800 A.D. and ending with a bit of Steve Reich’s Octet.  The entire work offers a variety of unusual orchestral vistas which are fun listening even it you don’t follow the tie-ins with the Garden.  The surround reproduction helps a lot too. This one gets my recommendation!

1. The Zeroroom
2. Soliton Waves
3. The Snail And the Poetics Of Going Slow
4. Symmetry Break Terrace/Black Hole Terrace
5. The Willowtwist
6. The Universe Cascade
7. The Garden Of the Senses Suite: Allemande (Audition)
8. The Garden Of the Senses Suite: Courante (Olfaction)
9. The Garden Of the Senses Suite: Sarabande (Gustation)
10. The Garden Of the Senses Suite: Passepied (Palpation)
11. The Garden Of the Senses Suite: Gigue (Vision) –
12. The Garden Of the Senses Suite: Chorale (The Sixth Sense: Intuition)
13. Fractal Terrace
14. The Jumping Bridge
15. The Quark Walk
16. The Nonsense

 – John Sunier

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