TOBIAS PICKER (b.1954): The Encantadas (w/Tobias Picker [narrator), Opera Without Words (First Recording).
Catalogue Number: 09W058
Description: Two inventive and attractive orchestral works in Picker's individual, colorful, tonal neo-romantic style. Both make unorthodox use of text, one by inclusion, the other by omission. The Encantadas (Enchanted Isles, an old name for the Galápagos Islands) is a series of vivid tone-poems illustrating Herman Melville's fantastically detailed and atmospheric account of the alien landscape, and the prolific fecundity of wildlife of the islands, laden with symbolism and mystical and religious associations. Picker sets these remarkable prose poems in the form of a melodrama, an equal partnership of narrated text and descriptive, narrative music, either of which could carry the argument alone and which collaborate but do not compete in this masterly presentation. Rarely, the music recedes to repeated gestures, placing the listener's attention on the text in the foreground; often, the two alternate, presenting the same images in complementary media in succession; sometimes the two are heard simultaneously, the music responding to the imagery of the words - as in the delicious waltz parody which illustrates Melville’s bemused account of the bizarre penguins. Picker is his own resonant narrator here, imbuing Melville's stately, florid prose with just the right balance of formality and phantasy. Picker brings his experience as one of the most active opera composers of our time to the fascinating, unlikely, and musically entirely satisfying experiment that is Opera Without Words, his first purely orchestral work in two decades. He hired a librettist to provide characters, dramatic action, and a text to be sung. He then composed the music, using instruments in lieu of voices, and omitted the texts altogether from the final score. So what remains are five 'scenes' in which strongly characterized dramatis personæ can be as clearly discerned as if acting out their parts on stage, in the kinds of situations and interactions frequently encountered by characters in operas. There is intrigue, action, romance, light relief; all the customary operatic conventions are observed, vividly depicted in the heightened colours of Picker's fantastically detailed orchestration and rich tonal idiom. Texts included. Nashville Symphony; Giancarlo Guerrero.