Torke: Rapture; An American Abroad; Jasper

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Torke
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Rapture; An American Abroad; Jasper
PERFORMER: Colin Currie (percussion); Royal Scottish NO/Marin Alsop
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559167
Like cigarettes and dark chocolate, the music of Michael Torke satisfies a certain kind of repetition-compulsion. Well, most of it does. In the case of the protracted travelogue An American Abroad, there’s no comparison with Gershwin, however nice it might be to imagine US visitors coping with Britain’s railways in a mood of unbroken euphoria. If the work finds in Alsop a safe pair of hands, it would need, nonetheless, a Bernstein both to bedazzle our ears and add punch to its pedestrian phrasing.

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Jasper, by contrast, is persuasive and addictive. The musical technique, considered apart from Torke’s always magnificent scoring, is impressive. Many varied repetitions of a descending scale are clothed in ravishing orchestral garments, and the 12-minute uplift, worth every penny, is delivered with polish and wit in its timely climaxes.

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Colin Currie’s account of the percussion concerto Rapture gets full marks both for sustained energy and good humour – the capricious rhythm of the slow movement, ‘Mallets’, is beautifully delivered. If he sounds a little too forward, such criticism also relates to recorded balance overall, with strings and other instruments – brass excepted – too often in the background of a somewhat raw recorded ambience. Nicholas Williams