MICHAEL HERSCH (b.1971): I hope we get a chance to visit soon.
Catalogue Number: 06V063
Label: New Focus Recordings
Description: As has by now been well established (07V062, 08U067, 03T077, 05Q093 et al.) Hersch occupies himself with aspects of the darkest side of human experience in his music. Anyone who believes that the function of art should be solely to be superficially beautiful, uplifting and consoling will presumably find this repugnant, and will avoid it; those who acknowledge that the abyss is there, has a purpose, and is inescapable, and are suspicious, if not dismissive, of Day-Glo utopias may find that the presence of an eloquent Virgil to guide them through the pit may provide at the very least some catharsis, if not actual reconciliation to the inevitable. It is to these that Hersch addresses himself. There are few words that strike fear into the human heart like "cancer", and Hersch, a cancer survivor himself who has lost people to the disease, has addressed the subject repeatedly in his music. This work was conceived as a companion piece to his opera-monodrama On the Threshold of Winter (2012) (still apparently and inexplicably unrecorded), which set poems from the collection "The Bridge" by the Romanian poet Marin Sorescu written in the final months before he died from cancer in 1996. "I hope we get a chance to visit soon" addresses the loss of a close friend, Mary Harris O’Reilly, to cancer. The principal texts of the work are drawn from O’Reilly’s correspondence with Hersch and fragments of poetry by Rebecca Elson (1960-1999) who also died of cancer. In Hersch's words, “Elson’s poetry seems to articulate in direct terms what much of O’Reilly’s thoughts refuse to openly acknowledge.” The two singers present the texts in dispassionate recitation, or almost screamed in passionate terror, sometimes in succession, sometimes in parallel but independently, and increasingly as the arc of the work descends, reaching out for one another in sudden, incidental consonance. Characteristically, the ensemble's music is often jagged, harsh and confrontational, but with sudden oases of resigned, or exhausted, tranquility; in the words of one critic "... claustrophobic and exhilarating at once, with moments of sublime beauty nestled inside thickets of dark virtuosity". Texts included. Ah Young Hong, Kiera Duffy (sopranos), Ensemble (string quartet, double bass, clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon, alto sax, piano) conducted by Tito Muñoz.