American composer Missy Mazzoli sends the harmonica, melodica and entire orchestra into orbit in her work Sinfonia for Orbiting Spheres, while Einojuhani Rautavaara evokes terrifying angels in his symphony Angel of Light.
American composer Missy Mazzoli (b. 1980) has produced a number of critically-acclaimed works in the last decade. She has written an opera based on the film Breaking the Waves, and has recently been commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, New York, to write a new opera. Her work for orchestra, Sinfonia for Orbiting Spheres from 2016, has been described as “music in the form of a solar system” – a series of trajectories travelling alongside each other. The title is a play on the Italian word for barrel organ, and Mazzoli uses melodica and harmonica to create a unique orchestra sound.
Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) was apparently unfamiliar with the possibilities offered by the violin when he was asked to compose a violin concerto in 1930. During a lunch with the violinist Samuel Dushkin he wrote down a chord on his napkin, and asked if it could be played on the violin. Dushkin said no, but when he got home, he found he could. This extreme chord introduces each of the four movements of the violin concerto. Dushkin performed the world premiere in 1931, with Stravinsky conducting. American violinist Leila Josefowicz is the soloist in this concert.
Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928–2016) was one of Finland’s most prominent modern-day composers. One of his breakthrough works is his “Concert for Birds and Orchestra” Cantus Arctitus from 1972, where a tape of birdsong from Northern Finland is played simultaneously with the orchestra. His Symphony No. 7, entitled Angel of Light, from 1994, is one of several of his works which include the word angel in the title. Rautavaara has remarked that the angels he envisages are not the blonde, mild beings with swan-like wings one might come across in children’s books, but terrifying, dazzling, intense creatures.
(Translation from Norwegian: Sarah Osa)
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