Torke: Book of Proverbs; Four Proverbs

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WORKS: Book of Proverbs; Four Proverbs
PERFORMER: Valdine Anderson Catherine Bott (soprano), Kurt Ollmann (baritone); Netherlands Radio PO & Choir/Edo de Waart; Argo Band/Michael Torke
CATALOGUE NO: 466 721-2
There’s something miraculous in the way Michael Torke delves beneath the bonnet of modern American music and strips down the engine to produce a mean machine that sounds like Petrushka crossed with new-deal Americana. You get the measure of it in the opening movement, for orchestra alone, of his Book of Proverbs. Thereafter, full chorus, soprano and baritone join the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic to ring the changes on seven proverbs from the inexhaustible Solomon. The choice is interesting, but the words are there chiefly as building-blocks to inspire the sheer energy of Torke’s music, an addictive substance which leaves you craving for more. The composer varies the vocal scoring in a pleasing symmetry, with movements for altos and tenors, sopranos and altos, and tenors and basses. Four Proverbs, for female voice and chamber ensembles including saxes, offers more intimate moods, though the musical instincts remain the same, not the least being the ability to invest the purest cliché with golden return. Two or three decades from now, will pieces like these that ape the previous century’s styles seem insipid? The answer lies among Torke’s chosen proverbs: ‘Boast not of tomorrow, for you know not what any day may bring forth.’ Nicholas Williams