MODIGLIANI 'S ARM
2222 4331 timp perc hp str
Commissioned by Barry Silverman
and the South Coast Symphony
First performance: February 4, 2005
Paul Bodine of the Orange County Register writes:
It's hard to dislike a piece whose composer modestly admits, "I honestly wasn't sure if the beautiful harmonies, ravishing melodies or exciting rhythms would be enough to hold the listener’s attention."
Built around the repetition by woodwinds and brass of a simple cartoonish motif, the “Arm” (the nickname given by the orchestra and conductor while rehearsing the piece for its premiere performance) proceeds like a drunken sailor (painter?) stumbling clownishly down a fiendishly looping street, relieved only now and then by a sweetly lilting memory sounded on the strings. Call it weirdly memorable.
There is a good bit of musical humor here.
Modigliani‘s arm is a quirky piece of orchestral tapestry.
It has some odd things, for example the Coplandesque horse hooves clip-clopping through the Appalachians (at approximately the 6-minute mark).
Then there is that dreamy sequence about one minute in – a passage borrowed from an earlier work, my 1985 student orchestral essay, "Flowers and Stones”.
Sometimes in a musical piece there is a single magical moment, making listening to the rest of it worthwhile.
For me that moment comes at the 9-minute mark.
But really one must take in the piece as a whole to experience the wonderful catharsis induced upon the willing listener as the themes recur, revolve and return, spinning an ever-embracing web of delight until finally book-ended with the return of the opening introductory statements in the oboe, clarinet, bassoon … and finally the entire ensemble.
Does it end with a bang?
No, befitting its quirky nature “The Arm” ends with a whimper – a mere puff of smoke …