CHARLES WUORINEN (b.1938): It Happens Like This for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass and 12 Players (Sharon Harms [soprano], Laura Mercado-Wright [alto], Steven Brennfleck [tenor], Douglas Williams [bass], The Group for Conemporary Music; Charles Wuorinen), Alphabetical Ashbery for Bass Clarinet/Clarinet, Baritone, Trumpet and Trombone (loadbang), Piano Sonata No. 4 (Anne-Marie McDermott).
Catalogue Number: 11T055
Description: Wuorinen and Ashbery could have been made for each other. Alphabetical Ashbery sets the 'A, B, Y and Z' poems from a collection arranged alphabetically by title. Ashbery's poetry is oblique and obscure, yet playfully so, and like Wuorinen there was always the sense that he didn't see why people couldn't accept his uncompromising idiom with a bit of effort; asked whether his poems were “accessible,” he replied: “Well, I’m told that they’re not. What they are is about the privacy of all of us, and the difficulty of our own thinking. And in that way, they are, I think, accessible if anyone cares to access them.” Wuorinen matches these sentiments with music that makes no concessions to popularity of idiom, yet Wuorinen's own words about Ashbery might equally apply to his music: "... it sometimes is a little hard to follow what is going on because of the rapidity with which the ideas flash by. On the other hand, there’s a deceptively colloquial quality to the poetry that makes you think you know what’s going on." It Happens Like This consists of seven musical dramatisations of James Tate's absurdist little poetic scenes, featuring characters in unexplained, surreal situations, from which the curtain is often suddenly plucked aside to reveal real vulnerability or pathos. Wuorinen provides incidental music to these part-narrated, part-sung miniature dramas, providing colour and depth to the scenes and characters in just a few, well chosen brush strokes, as it were. The atmosphere generated by the sinister instrumental introduction to The Formal Invitation is masterfully handled, for instance; one is in no doubt that the awkward party scene is not going to end well, and the ending is chilling. The sonata was written for McDermott, and the composer took inspiration from characteristics of her playing. In acknowledgement of her playing of the Classical literature, the piece is in four movements in a conventional layout (though with few - just a few - concessions in terms of Wuorinen's customary atonal idiom), and the piece emphasises precision, clarity and virtuosity. Texts included.