Passage - Contemporary Works for Orchestra
Though “passage” is a word of numerous meanings, they all point back to a singular idea – the transition between two disparate entities. Whether it’s a passage of prose which moves along a narrative, a physical passageway connecting two points, or the continuous passing of time, all these snapshots help define our crucial moments within life’s movements. This theme threads the works on PASSAGE, the latest orchestral compilation from Navona featuring compositions from Sergio Cervetti, Daniel Crozier, Craig Morris, and Betty Wishart.
For his contribution to the album, Cervetti recalls a passage from the Book of Revelation, read to him in French by his grandfather while sitting in his lap, immobilized by terrified fascination. The resulting Concerto for Trumpet, Strings, and Timpani, Septem Tubae from Revelation 11:15 (“The seventh angel sounded the trumpet…”) is an awing and triumphant work of fittingly Biblical proportions. After a foreboding trumpet solo opens the composition, a tumultuous duet breaks out between timpani and trumpet. Once there’s calm on the battlefield, a final meditative section recalls the Voices of Heaven, with violas and cellos accompanying timpani and trumpet in an apocalyptic crescendo.
Morris’ piece A Child’s Day comes from a similarly personal place, with the music’s light, sweet themes reminding the composer of his grandchildren, who experience the fullness of each passing day as a “fresh new world.” The suite for string orchestra with percussion captures the moments within this daily experience, beginning with “Morning Smiles” and it’s airy string arrangement, which conjures the scene of a child slowly waking to the warm, loving faces of their parents in the morning. After a passage defined by energetic mallet percussion and a whimsical instrumental timbre on “Playtime,” the tired child drifts off to sleep on “Sweet Dreams” after an eventful day full of warm memories, captured by a slow-soaring micro suite with lighter percussive accents.
With her own mysterious passage on Concertante No. 1, “Journey into the Unknown,” Wishart composes based on the musing that “we may rest from the journey, but the effects of our encounters are still with us.” Written for strings, woodwinds, and French horn, the composer creates a journey for both the mind and heart, as logos-driven motives weave the different instruments in imitative, overlapping counterpoint, and the prominent use of minor seconds, tritones, and sevenths throughout capture the emotional apprehension and excitement of exploring the unknown. From the low opening double bass and cellos all the way through playful groups of sixteenth-notes and a climactic dialogue between the winds and the string, the composer explores highly contrapuntal and expressive motives.
Crozier contributes to PASSAGE with Ballade: A Tale After the Brothers Grimm, a similarly fantastical musical yarn. The composition throughout conjures storybook reveries of every persuasion, ranging from bouncing spring footsteps via a collective fluttering orchestra to an evil romp through the forest as thundering percussion propels a frantic string section. By the end, listeners will crave the visual representation of the tale Ballade creates with its musical narration.