COMPOSERS: G Coates
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Stuttgart PO/Wolf-Dieter Hauschild, Georg Schmöhe, Bavarian RSO/Elgar Howarth
CATALOGUE NO: 999 392-2
‘The Grandma Moses of American music’, said a compatriot – of Gloria Coates’s, not mine – when we both heard this now 58-year-old composer’s Music on Open Strings (1973-4) in Warsaw in 1978. There’s an almost likeable naivety about the takeover of the first movement’s pentatonic theme by increasingly disturbing extended instrumental techniques, or the retuning in the third movement.
But since before Coates started calling such works symphonies (restyling Music on Open Strings as No. 1), she’s been attempting to enlarge her range. The Fourth and Seventh sound rather like Górecki, Kancheli or Ustvolskaya with extra glissandi. But there’s an especially horrid artificiality about the combination of Purcell’s ‘Dido’s Lament’ and ‘Polish-school textural’ gestures in the opening movement of the Fourth (1984-90). Keith Potter