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Missy Mazzoli: Dark With Excessive Bright etc

Peter Herresthal (violin); Arctic Philharmonic/Tim Weiss; Bergen Philharmonic/James Gaffigan (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Missy Mazzoli
Dark With Excessive Bright*†; Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres); These Worlds in Us; Orpheus Undone; Vespers for Violin*
*Peter Herresthal (violin); Arctic Philharmonic/Tim Weiss; †Bergen Philharmonic/James Gaffigan
BIS BIS-2572 (CD/SACD)   66:22 mins


Rising to prominence in post-minimalist New York, Missy Mazzoli (b1980) is today best known for her operas – most recently The Listeners (2022). Yet her recent residency with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra attests to her continued pull to large-scale concert forms.

The orchestras here hail from Norway, where their own experience of dark light perhaps enables their instinctive response to Mazzoli’s arresting blend of apparent opposites. Brilliantly joined by soloist Peter Herresthal, under conductor James Gaffigan the Bergen Philharmonic offers two versions of the concerto Dark with Excessive Bright (2021): both for violin and strings, they are performed with eloquent passion and coolness, the first lushly full-section and the second sparser in more intimate quintet arrangement.

Originally for double bass, the Milton- and Baroque-inspired work is one of many re-imagined over time by Mazzoli, for whom the creative interweaving of past-present, tonal-dissonance and bliss-pain remains beguilingly constant. Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres)(2013) was expanded from chamber to full-scale forces as heard here, the Bergeners investing its hurdy-gurdy ‘rococo loops’ with equal elusiveness and purpose.

While These Worlds in Us (2006) shows the youthful cohesiveness of Mazzoli’s pulsing ambivalence, her ballet suite Orpheus Undone (2021) is not quite so sure-footed in its time-stretching of Orpheus’s agonised ‘eternal present’. Nonetheless, Tim Weiss’s Arctic Philharmonic extract wonderful resonance from its thrumming major-minor textures – and Herresthal’s rendition of 2014’s Vespers for Violin combines violin and electronics, incision and dreaminess to winning effect. A re-imagining of the art-pop Vespers for a New Dark Age, it reveals Mazzoli in her genre-defying element.


Steph Power