Tim Smith, bass clarinet; Laura Frautschi, violin; Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Gil Rose, conductor
"The Boston composer Lee Hyla writes works that deftly blend expressionistic, complex contemporary atonal idioms with elements of avant-garde jazz, rock and even punk... While American orchestras keep commissioning the same handful of tame Neo-Romantics, here is a truly original composer who has yet to gain the attention he deserves." －Anthony Tommassini, The New York Times
In the music of Lee Hyla (1952–2014), without exception, I have always felt that the jagged, honking, barking, raucous, strongly articulated rhythmic layer patrols and protects an inner layer of timeless, crystalline beauty, almost too fragile to survive on its own. His obsessive recycling of material, subtly transformed over the course of the piece, rude interruptions, and unexpected glimpses of an internal radiance all add to a sense of uneasy striving towards a kind of transcendent experience.
The three works on this disc－Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Orchestra (1988), Trans (1996), and the Violin Concerto (2001)－are intelligent, but not intellectual. They are obvious siblings, though each piece sustains its own strong character. Lee has chosen, in all of these works, to tell a tale, to work within a musical space whose boundaries consist of wildly contrasting elements. Bluntly cut transitions range from slow to fast, soft to loud, classic and contained to raucous rock-and-roll-with an almost bizarre use of Beethovenian techniques exercised on poached riffs.
The source materials diverge wildly, from The Art Ensemble of Chicago to Alban Berg. While at first it may seem like putting mustard on ice cream, such use of contrast maps out a large space and plants markers-very bright markers-at the boundaries. These are the unforgettable flags, made indelible by their very contrast, that articulate a large musical space. Like in many works of Beethoven, the material is tightly controlled, but the scope of the pieces is vast.
Conductor Gil Rose leads his Boston Modern Orchestra Project into and out of this challenging terrain with panache, convincingly transplanting rock-and-roll riffs into the orchestral environment－a truly impressive accomplishment. －Ted Mook, from the liner notes