Review: “Brilliant playing takes top prize in New World’s Pulitzer program”

From the South Florida Classical Review:

Prior to the performance of his Tempest Fantasy, the 2004 Pulitzer winner, composer Paul Moravec took the stage at the New World Center and delivered an enlightening preview of his score with the musicians playing excerpts from each of the work’s five movements.

Moravec has forged his own musical language. At once accessible, yet challenging, there is a bristling and restless aura to Moravec’s fantasy on scenes and characters from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Scored for violin, cello, clarinet and piano, the score is brimming with engaging melodic content and finely textured instrumental harmonics.

There is real emotion in Moravec’s superbly constructed series of character vignettes. Leaping clarinet lines and alternately sweet and gutsy violin strokes conjure up the spirit Ariel in the first movement. In the second section, Prospero is represented by dark lyricism with an undercurrent of anguish. A plethora of wit in the bass clarinet’s spooky tones and lumbering, heavy dance symbolizes the monster Caliban, Prospero’s servant and antagonist. The “Sweet Airs” of the fourth movement find violin and clarinet blending for the work’s most splashy moment of updated romanticism. A riotous finale reprises themes from the previous movements played at a high level of intensity. With a touch of jazz from the clarinet and piano, all the motifs coalesce into a satisfying coda.

Moravec’s score has been widely performed and for good reason. Both musically complex and enticing to the ear, the Tempest Fantasy is an outstanding 21st-century addition to the chamber music literature.

Moravec told the audience that the New World players’ performance was “a composer’s dream come true” and indeed the subtlety and brilliance of the playing would be hard to surpass. Dima Dimitrova’s luminous violin tone and fearless agility, even when playing on open strings, was first among equals. Daniel Parrette exhibited total command of the bravura clarinet writing, playing with focused tone and fine projection. The sudden jolts into the upper register were smoothly contoured and he made the quirky bass clarinet warbling in the Caliban movement sparkle with wry humor. Jacob Hanegan’s burnished cello sonority brought warmth to Prospero’s melancholy and John Wilson was alert to the gnarly changes of meter in the keyboard part. The players’ supple blending allowed individual voices to be clearly audible.”

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