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Symphonies Nos. 1, 7 and 14

Gloria Coates , Siegerland Orchestra , Munich Chamber Orchestra , Bavarian RSO Audio CD
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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1. Lamentation: Homage To Supply Belcher - Christoph Poppen
2. Jargon: Homage To William Billings - Christoph Poppen
3. The Lonesome Ones: Homage To Otto Luening - Christoph Poppen
4. Theme And Transformation - Jorge Rotter
5. Scherzo - Jorge Rotter
6. Scordatura (Tuning While Playing) - Jorge Rotter
7. Refracted Mirror Canon For 14 Lines - Jorge Rotter
8. Whirligig Of Time - Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
9. Glass Of Time - Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
10. Corridors Of Time - Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

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3.0 out of 5 stars ok June 18 2012
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
well. I didn't know this composer, after listening this, I think I'll stay with just this...I won't buy anything else. Merci, bonjour

Martin
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, intense, but terribly testing Dec 10 2007
By mianfei - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Having adored Sofia Gubaidulina's In Croce and having been recommended Gloria Coates by "avant-captain nemo", Gloria Coates' symphonies were a natural listen for me.

Though Coates' symphonies (some of which were composed before "In croce") are less dense than Gubaidulina's, there is a very definite similarity in the work of the two composers because both rely on intense, passionately-played melodies on strings tuned in unusual ways. Though seldom noticed, this is quite like the melodies bands like My Bloody Valentine and the lesser-known Band of Susans did with electric guitars. On "Symphonies Nos. 1, 7 & 14", apart from a timpani at the end of one track and a full orchestra on "Symphony No.7", the sound is exclusively based around string orchestras that superficially can seem to be just playing the same note repeatedly. [My mother once compared it to a malfunctioning electrical appliance!]

Nonetheless, careful listening does reveal a great deal going on as the strings move through each of the symphonies here. The energy, though held remarkably deep, is particularly pronounced in "Lamentation", which possesses remarkable turbulence behind its apparent "nothingness", but is present all through the three symphonies present here and makes them a remarkably consistent listen. "Whirligig of Time" really does whirl in a remarkable way, aided by some powerful brass work, and there is a degree of variation in the sound that seems quite unexpected from a superficial listen. If you listen many times (with decent headphones) you will see how clearly the deep emotion is let out at the finale of every piece in a way that is almost electrifying.

Coates is certainly an acquired taste, but for intense, extended string drones nothing surpasses this set of symphonies. As the liner notes say, it sounds as if you are swept away slowly but without any chance of escaping.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gloria Coates Symphonies on Naxos Dec 11 2007
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
It is always an adventure to discover the work of an unfamiliar composer. One of the best sources for the discovery of new music is the budget-priced Naxos label's "American Classics" series. I was pleased to hear symphonies by Gloria Coates (b. 1938), a composer I had not known before.
Coates has lived in Germany since 1969, and her work is not well-known. It is challenging, difficult, and discordant music which will not appeal to everyone. But I found it moving and fascinating.

The most prominent feature of Coates's music is the use of string glissandos -- slidings up and down the scale as occur when one runs one's fingers over the piano. The glissandos at various volumes tempos, rhythms, and registers are ever-present, sometimes as the theme and sometimes as background. Other features of this music include the use of counterpoint, canonical writing with much repetition and variation. The music uses a hypnotic rhythm, frequently punctuated with tympani or other percussion. And the music is discordant, using quarter tones, atonality, pentatonic scales, and instruments playing in different scales. Coates's symphonies are programmatic as the composer gives descriptive titles to each movement, sometimes after the fact.

This CD includes three symphonies by Gloria Coates (she has composed 15) written at different stages of her career. The symphonies are performed by three different orchestras, and recorded at different times, which makes this CD an excellent overview of Coates's work and of performance practices.

The earliest work on this CD is Coates's symphony no. 1, "Music on Open Strings", a short four-movement work composed in 1972-1973. The recording dates from 1980 and features the Siegerland Orchestra. The work is scored for strings and tympani. This work requires special tuning for the orchestra, as the initial movements are played on open strings (with the exception of the glissandos) tuned to the pentatonic scale (equivalent to the five black keys on the piano). In the third movement, the orchestra gradually retunes to the diatonic scale. There is one of Haydn's symphonies in which, as a joke, Haydn has the orchestra retune midway through a movement. But Coates music is highly serious. This short work is perhaps Coates at her most accessible.

Coates Symphony No. 7 is a lengthy, complex three-movement work that dates from 1990 and is "dedicated to those who brought down The Wall in PEACE." It is performed by the Barvarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in a recording that dates from 1997. The three movement in the work commemorate in various ways the passage of time. The movements involve repetitions of highly rhythmic themes and glissandos which work inexorably to large climactic moments of great intensity and rigor.

The final work on this CD is Coates's three movement Symphony No. 14, the "Symphony in Microtones" composed in 2001-2002. The work was recorded in 2003 by the Munich Chamber Orchestra. This is Coates's most American symphony, as the first two movements incorporate music of two early American composers, Supply Belcher (1750 -- 1836) and William Billings (1746- 1800). The third movement is a tribute to Coates's teacher, Otto Luening (1990 -- 1996). In this work the orchestra plays in two sections, a quarter-tone apart, resulting in great discordancy. Hymnal and melodic material arises, mid to end of each movement, from the discordancy and swirling glissandos and then fade away. Charles Ives, of course, was the great American composer who used quarter-tones, discordancy, and the incorporation of hymns and popular material to large effect in his music. Coates's use of these techniques is chisled and austure, in contrast to Ives's overflowing optimism and verve.

Coates's work probably is not a good choice for newcomers to American music or for those with exclusively conservative tastes. From this CD, she seems to work within a rather narrow range of musical voice and technique. For those who want to explore modernistic American music somewhat off the beaten track, this may be a rewarding CD.

Robin Friedman
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Coates' First is justly celebrated, but most of her music is mediocre Jan. 28 2012
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Long ignored in her native USA, and pretty obscure even in her adopted Europe, Gloria Coates has come to greater attention in recent years with the release of several CDs on Naxos. This one from 2006 features three of the composer's symphonies, performed by a changing cast of German orchestras and conductors.

Coates has a fairly unique soundworld where glissandi are prominent, in fact, sometimes glissandi are exclusively used instead of fixed pitches. This soundworld is in full force in "Music on Open Strings" (1973), which the composer later called her Symphony No. 1. The first movement introduces a pentatonic theme that is taken up by the entire orchestra and transformed into glissandi with all the majesty and eeriness of Ligeti and Penderecki's sound-mass pieces. In the second movement, pizzicatos suddenly take over the texture and disrupt an even flow, thus the title "Scherzo". The third movement introduces even more magic, as the string orchestra retunes while playing to a conventional Western scale. Finally, the piece ends with a "refracted mirror canon in 14 lines", which paradoxically ends the piece in a convincing fashion, but at the same time seems to break off and leaving us wanting more. I like "Music on Open Strings" a lot, I'd love to experience it in concert to see how these sounds come out of an ordinary string orchestra.

Unfortunately, the later two works on this disc (and other music I've heard by the composer) are disappointing. Though one is initially intrigued by Coates' glissandi style, when used in work after work, it comes to seem an empty musical skeleton that could use some real, varied content on top of it. The Symphony No. 7 (1990-91) and Symphony No. 14 (2003) were written years apart and for somewhat different forces, but they mostly sound, first of all, indistinguishable from each other and, second, a lot like an anonymous dissonant film score. The Fourteenth has moments that refer back to the Western classical canon, mixed in with the glissandi, but they don't elevate the work to any especial height. Both of these symphonies make extramusical claims, with the Seventh supposedly praising the forces that brought down the Berlin Wall, and the Fourteenth being a hommage to early American artists. The actual music, however, is the backdrop to a bad science fiction movie.
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