Reviews

Gymnopédies Nos. 3-7/Kiki Wearing Tasha

“Mathew Rosenblum wrote his new commissioned work Gymnopédies Nos. 3-7/Kiki Wearing Tasha expressly for the Boston Microtonal Society…  changes in timbral qualities came first, with microtones making up part of the fabric that held the harmonic language together… it focused heavily on emphasizing the different techniques employed alongside shifts in attention to microtonal scales or dissonances, until it came to what Rosenblum described as “an unexpected explosive add-on section at the end,” truly blindsiding the listener with a sudden shift in dynamics and character unseen up until that point. Strangely enough, although described as unexpected, the coda felt natural.”
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Falling

“All that was overshadowed by Mr. Rosenblum’s piece. It lasts about 25 minutes, and at its core is a recorded reading of “Falling” by the poet that flickers in and out of focus. A vocal line (Jamie Jordan) only fully emerges toward the end. Eschewing the relentless downward force of another gravitational song, John Adams’s “Aria of the Falling Body” from “The Death of Klinghoffer,” it seems instead to break slowly apart, its pitches bending, its moods changing — rapt, fretful, eerily suspended — with the dive. If it’s not as capacious as Dickey’s poem, the view from the air is beautiful all the same.”

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“Falling blends electronics, spoken word, and live music more effectively than most other such efforts. The piece compresses foreground and background into a rich, floating mass. As haunting as it sounds, there’s nothing diffuse about it, both the poetry and the music are compelling, each line from Dickey and each instrumental phrase peeling back another layer from a central mystery. The path into the heart of the piece is both clear and infinite.”

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“Rosenblum’s piece is a beautifully conceived composition, with arresting ideas and imaginative details of instrumentation.”

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Lament/Witches Sabbath

“Mr. Rosenblum composed “Lament/Witches Sabbath” specifically for Mr. Krakauer, one of the world’s preeminent klezmer virtuosos. The 25-minute concerto featured field recordings of Mr. Rosenblum’s late grandmother singing a traditional Ukrainian lament, with solo clarinet and orchestra woven around the keening melodies. Mr. Rosenblum also used quotations from the “Witches Sabbath” movement of Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique” to capture his grandmother’s old-world superstition.

“Mr. Krakauer’s artistry shone through even the most technical passages and extended techniques, including a lengthy cadenza that involved circular breathing — a method of playing a wind instrument indefinitely by breathing in through the nose quickly while puffing stored air from the cheeks — along with glissandos and pitched harmonics. The orchestra accompanied Mr. Krakauer and the recordings alike with feeling, conjuring the energy of a possessed mosh pit for the more nefarious “Witches Sabbath” quotes.”

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Lament/Witches’ Sabbath compact disc

“Lament/Witches’ Sabbath (New Focus Recordings)… contains four works by Mathew Rosenblum, an East Coast composer who occasionally ventures into forbidden territory as he blends percussion, acoustic instruments, electronics, voice and microtonal elements in extremely visceral, moving, and sometimes gut-wrenching ways…Performed by Gil Rose’s one and only Boston Modern Orchestra Project and the astounding klezmer clarinetist, David Krakauer…

“What Rosenblum does with these elements, in a work that takes some inspiration from the final “Witches’ Sabbath” movement of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, is extraordinary.”

“The thought of a Jewish-themed work about escape from persecution appearing on “record” barely two weeks after the massacre of 11 Jews in the city where the work premiered certainly provides cause for pause. The music itself is so powerful, and the singing and playing so atypically eloquent that they simply must be heard. This is music that transcends speeches, rhetoric, and thoughts and prayers as it cuts straight to the heart.”

“Rosenblum’s three other compositions bring equal rewards, each in its own way. Written for percussion soloist Lisa Pegher, Northern Flicker for Percussion (2012) …is a must for both percussion fans and those who revel in the extraordinary.”

“The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble under Kevin Noe plays superbly.”

“Finally, we have Last Round (ostatnia runda) (2015), performed by the four members of the Flux Quartet and the six members of Mantra Percussion for whom it was written. If the performing forces alone are not enough to send the curious amongst us scurrying for this recording, the music itself, which calls for amplified strings, bongos, a variety of small bass drums and metallic percussion, and a set of pipes tuned to a 19 note-to-the-octave scale, will. Violent, aggressive, and filled with color, it’s quite the piece.”

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“This astonishingly fine new release  includes four recent works by Pittsburgh composer Mathew Rosenblum, all different in scope and tone. Any one of them would have been enough to anchor a record; having four together, in all their eloquence and beauty, feels like thrilling bounty.”

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Ostatnia runda (Last Round)

“The final work on the program was the impressive world premiere of “Ostatnia runda” by Music on the Edge co-director Mathew Rosenblum. The piece was written for FLUX, sitting in the center of The Warhol entrance space, and Mantra, scattered around the periphery with stations of cymbals, bongos, bells, bass drums, dozens of pipes and more. It had a visceral, tribal quality…”

Beyond: Microtonal Music Festival

“The Beyond: Microtonal Music Festival,” which took place this past weekend at The Andy Warhol Museum and the University of Pittsburgh, offered a chance to explore this genre, commonly known as microtonal music.”

“Presented by the museum and Pitt’s Music on the Edge series, the ambitious festival made a compelling case for the continued integration of microtonal music into Pittsburgh’s performing arts scene and provided a look at the vibrant community that already exists. I attended most of the festival, including the two symposium sessions and concerts on Saturday and Sunday, which were filled to capacity.”

“In just a few days, the festival cultivated a community of composers, interpreters and listeners. Nearly every piece in the final concert spotlighted either a composer in attendance or a local ensemble.”

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“The performance was a triumph.”

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Möbius Loop compact disc

“The heart of the album, though, is dedicated to the Möbius Loop. Rosenblum wrote the piece at the end of his mother’s life and there’s a gravitas to the music that might be read as a meditation on death. But it’s not all grim: Möbius Loop also draws on an improvised tune by the composer’s seven-year old daughter and its appearance provides one of the piece’s most striking moments. I came away more impressed by the immediacy of the quartet version, though the brilliant colors of the expanded orchestral setting have a power of their own; it’s telling to have both on one disc, as the affect each gives off is quite different, one version to the next.”

“In all these performances, Rose again draws bold performances from BMOP. This is an orchestra that’s in the habit of making convincing arguments for just about everything it plays and they do so again here.”

“The original incarnation of Möbius Loop features the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, for whom the piece was written. The group has all the music’s quirks and gestures easily in hand, and navigate Rosenblum’s swirling eddies of notes with surety and sensitivity.”

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“Get swept away by the majestic musicality of Mathew Rosenblum: Möbius Loop. Presented by Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the three-part concerto borrows notes from classical, free jazz, rock, minimalism, folk, and world music traditions. Gil Rose conducted baritone saxophonist Kenneth Coon, percussionist Lisa Pegher, and the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet to create the beautiful sound.”

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“Thanks to a nod from Frank J. Oteri on MewMusicBox, I’ve belatedly discovered this gem of a disc from Pittsburgh composer Mathew Rosenblum, represented by three works (one in two versions) that mix surreal microtonal scales, seductive melodies and bubbly rhythms with disarming ease and confident charm.”

“University of Pittsburgh professor Mathew Rosenblum’s tribute to Sigurd Raschèr, as aptly interpreted by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project with direction by Gil Rose, serves as an appropriate homage to the famed classical saxophonist. The release also displays traces of other prominent 20th-century composers peeking around the corner; Karlheinz Stockhausen comes immediately to mind. Much like Béla Bartok’s foray as ethnomusicologist by way of composition, Rosenblum juggles genres and styles, mixing and matching fragmented components like swatches of cloth within an aural quilt. The result is a pleasant mélange of colors and shapes with a wide array of scales and opulent percussive trickery. Opening track “Sharpshooter” beckons with hushed pizzicato flourishes that flare with abbreviated aplomb. Fear not — though the dizzying array of atonal notes within the five-movement piece “Double Concerto” harken back to Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler, there is still enough of a traditionalist’s vibe to hold the experimental concepts at bay.”

Eliza Furnace

“For Eliza Furnace, Rosenblum successfully evokes the vibrancy of the city’s former iron-furnace workers. Thudding drums and clanking cymbals bring images of massive machinery, with trumpets and low brass adding further detail…each displayed considerable skill in orchestrating moods and crafting structure, with highest marks to Rosenblum and Williams.”

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“Eliza Furnace,” by Mathew Rosenblum, is dedicated to Pittsburgh’s iron mill workers. The microtonal nature of work created an interesting Doppler Effect of sorts, and the composer thoughtfully deployed metallic instruments, particularly brass and percussion, in the work, leaving one wondering what sort of music exists in daily life that we might miss.”

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Northern Flicker

“A pounding showpiece of rhythmic flair.”

Sharpshooter

“Orchestras rarely take on microtonal music, except when certain members of the string and brass sections inadvertently play music intended for performance in 12-tone equal temperament with less than accurate intonation. This alone makes Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s perfectly in-tune performance of Mathew Rosenblum’s Sharpshooter, which is crafted from an idiosyncratic 19-pitch scale with equally beating minor thirds, a thing of wonder. But the fact that the music shimmers and grooves and that these otherworldly intervals are almost hummable make it an extremely satisfying, if slightly mind-altering, listening experience. For added enjoyment, try singing along with it!”

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Circadian Rhythms compact disc

“To say that Mathew Rosenblum takes an interest in unorthodox tuning systems is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t really do justice to either the depth and beauty of the music on this disc, or to Rosenblum’s range as a composer. The 20-minute score that gives the disc its title does include two differently tuned pianos, along with cello and percussion, and much of the music’s distinctive sound comes from the interplay of the various scales. But what makes the piece so rich and inviting are the wit and dexterity with which Rosenblum deploys those sounds, incorporating them first into sparse, evocative dreamscapes, then into bursts of punk rock or piano jazz that maintain a connection to the whole. Other pieces here display different sides of a multi-faceted creative voice, from the spangly beauty of “Yonah’s Dream” (which incorporates the tuning system of the visionary composer and instrument builder Harry Partch) to “The Big Rip,” a densely wrought choral work that Rosenblum bills as a science-fiction cantata. Perhaps most beguiling of all is “Under the Rainbow,” which combines a live flute with a madcap recorded melange of electronic sounds and clips from Warner Brothers cartoons and “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s the kind of jape that should be merely brash, but Rosenblum makes it at once funny and moving.”

Möbius Loop

“From the perspective of sheer sonic imagination, Mathew Rosenblum’s “Möbius Loop” made the strongest impression as it packed the octave not with 12 tones but with 21, creating an ear-buzzing flood of sound, rich in unusual overtones. It was easiest to appreciate Rosenblum’s inventive style in the sections where the orchestra thinned out and the four soloists (here, the persuasive Raschèr Saxophone Quartet) came to the fore. In slower moments, the sound drifted from the stage like a force-field.”

“Validating its place at the top of its musical niche, the Rascher Saxophone Quartet performed works by Glass, Penderecki and Moe with remarkable precision. But the highlight of the evening came with the premiere of Mathew Rosenblum’s work for saxophone quartet and chamber orchestra,”Mobius Loop.” With richly layered themes and an intelligent use of color, it shimmered with vibrancy. Though conductor Roger Zahab masterfully meshed the disparate forces together, the musicians clearly felt a preternatural kinship with the work — of the sort that comes from only well-constructed and deeply felt music. Given it remains so difficult to find good new music, this was a special evening.”

“Twisted like a Mobius strip, “Mobius Loop” is a fascinating work for saxophone quartet and small orchestra. It’s a rich, layered work that would overwhelm one with its multi cyclic complexity were it not for the adept use of pedal points, rhythms and harmony. Rosenblum scored it so well that it filled the hall with vibrant strains, pulling the ear forward with every measure. All the potentially disparate voices fit snugly together, and his use of the Rascher quartet supported the texture, rather than pushing it aside for spotlighted solos. Halfway through, there’s a major outburst of imitative music, an almost satirical layering of minimalism, Spanish rhapsody and jazz.”

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“(Rosenblum’s Möbius Loop) is not a composition that makes the hearer furrow his brow – it immediately gets into your bones. A bit of free jazz, a bit borrowing from folk music from Persia, Japan, and Cuba, all poured into an attractive three-part concerto form. And nobody was surprised that the “Well-Tempered Clavier” on occasion collided with Rosenblum’s own 21-tone scale system. One could see that the musicians had fun playing this fresh composition, and that was a pleasure.”

“Mathew Rosenblum’s “Mobius Loop” provided a triumphant conclusion to the concert. The title is a reference to a visual illusion, but the notion of a loop is part of contemporary composition, referring to a passage that is repeated. Loops grew out of minimalism, but Rosenblum’s piece shows they can be used to create tremendous variety of texture by using loops of different lengths.”Mobius Loop” is a vibrant and powerful piece, with precise and imaginative orchestration.”

Yonah’s Dream

“Matthew Rosenblum’s Yonah’s Dream (2008) began like fuzzy neo-Noh drama, with Newband co-director Stefani Starin slurring flute microtones like a shakuhachi and Charles Corey hammering a surrogate kithara that somewhat mimicked a koto. Fascinating surreal textures, almost tactile, wedded with subtly gradated melodies, and soft mallets on two to three marimbas introduced a rocking beat that evolved into a fixed martial, then syncopated, 8/8.”

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RedDust

“RedDust shows flashes of brilliance… Rosenblum’s score was impressionistic, with the vocal lines floating above, minimalist and sometimes surprisingly tonal…a psychedelic wash over the dramatic continum…RedDust conveyed not only the confusion indicated in the title, but a sweeping emotional experience.”

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“Encountering Mathew Rosenblum’s opera ‘RedDust’ was a provocative experience Saturday night at Opera Theater’s world-premiere production at The Andy Warhol Museum…the many media serve to increase the density of Rosenblum’s compelling psychological creation about Chinese author Shi-yin, who is suffering from both writer’s block and remorse over a romance that ended with his lover’s suicide…Rosenblum’s score…was full of character, including lyrical beauty. Conductor Paul Hostetter led aconfident performance…Labels can be convenient because they tell us what to expect. Rosenblum didn’t want to play that game. His opera is a thought-provoking experience that offers different rewards than its nominal genre usually provides.”

Circadian Rhythms

“Mathew Rosenblum’s Circadian Rhythms is a marvelous piece; well constructed and richly colored, the composer’s nineteen-note-to-the-octave tuning system gives the music  a distinctive tang, and there are occasional echoes of Javanese harmonies and twinkling gongs…”

“[Rosenblum] sounded more like a romantic wild card, expressive and more textured, unafraid of repeating himself, incorporating rock and gamelan music directly…”

“This composer’s main interest now appears to be centered around the idea of using two or more tuning systems simultaneously, and the result here is energetic and exciting.” “His critically acclaimed Circadian Rhythms incorporates a 19-note tuning he himself invented. … the influence of Gamelan and American rock forms a mysterious bond, and the 23-minute work leaves an impression of sophisticated aural design, especially in the way space and timbral contrasts are exploited.”

“Circadian Rhythms is probably best recommended to those who already have the habit of stretching their ears (as Charles Ives used to say) with exotic tunings, but is one of the most original and striking of such pieces since the death of Harry Partch.”

Under The Rainbow

“Mathew Rosenblum’s “Under the Rainbow” didn’t hint at larger performing forces but simply included them, in the form of pre-recorded tracks. The work follows a solo flute through a journey of sorts, ironically accompanied by club music and funny quips of well-known cartoon figures and movie characters, including from “The Wizard of Oz. “The latter is the obscured underpinning of the piece, brought distinctly, and perhaps in a slightly kinky manner, to the fore this time by flutist Goodman’s dressing like Dorothy — complete with ponytails, blue dress, red shoes and Toto. At first this threatened to put too much literal focus onto the abstract piece, which she played very well, but soon it became apparent Goodman was on to something. Bringing out Dorothy, she focused more on the symbolic role of innocence as the flute/protagonist travels through the piece, especially when it took stops at a sleazy lounge. Lighting by Andrew David Ostrowski also helped to affect this. Having now heard “Under the Rainbow” several times, the flute line is now emerging from all the recorded, funny “accompaniment” for me. It’s a lovely little melody, though a little melancholy, and in a sense the work is a modern version of a flute sonata.”

“Under The Rainbow” by Mathew Rosenblum…combined a densely constructed pre-recorded sound world with expressive melodic material performed live and with impressive artistry by Lindsey Goodman. It is a fresh take on elements of pop culture, with the sound of munchkins and others from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Nü kuan tzu

“The best new piece of the evening was by composer Mathew Rosenblum. The writing is expressive, with wonderful effects achieved by means of the juxtaposition of both singing and speaking over the playing of the instruments…radically different languages made contributions to the music itself and expanded its expressive range.”

“The piece “Nü Kuan Tzu” (22 minutes) is one iota shy of being a masterpiece. It combines ancient chinese poems and poems by French writers Arthur Rimbaud nd Guillaume Apollinaire in nine movements of changing musical styles. A stunning cultural shock that could have been almost indecent in contrasts, but on the contrary it conveys the beauty of the texts and of the music. A revelation. Very strongly recommended.”

“Like Harry Partch with a funky, oriental edge. Like birds gone to heaven. Like small spaceships in the cranium. Like a drunken Terry Riley. Electronic Respighi. A demented Chinese voice and instrument lesson. An alternative universe Arab band. A secular ritual third-stream blues Messiaen. A spastic rock party. Sassy text-sound diatribes. With even a little straight-ahead ‘new-music ensemble’ thrown in…”

“Nü kuan tzu (1996) by Mathew Rosenblum…giddily fuses equal-temperament and microtonal tunings, evocations of pop and French Impressionism, and texts ranging from ancient Chinese potry to Rimbaud. Mr. Rosenblum has technique and a vivid imagination.”

Continental Drift

“Rosenblum manages his resources nimbly, with no sense of clutter, and the score’s dramatic shape is clear and persuasive.”

Ancient Eyes

“Granted, Rosenblum’s “Ancient Eyes” was the only piece of the fest I’d heard before,but I still feel it’s the most memorable. In this work, Rosenblum splits the octave into an unconventional 19 steps.This “out of tune” sound instantly makes the work un-cliched, perhaps the most important thing any composer can do. Yes, the pioneering Harry Partch did it first, but he never composed as well as Rosenblum with the new octave.The CMU students fully embraced this graceful, light and ecstatic piece.”

Ancient Eyes compact disc

“As well as being lovely music, Rosenblum’s pieces have dramatic-allusive content that keeps things from degrading to the ‘merely’ lovely; there are substantial ideas here as well. The delicacy and complexity of these pieces is presented ideally by the musicians of both ensembles. Very highly recommended.”

00Opinions

“Mathew Rosenblum’s 00Opinions was fascinating–with voices clashing in montage and often madcap, strikingly original combinations of sound”

The Big Rip (A Science Fiction Cantata)

“Etwas ganz Besonderes hatte der neue Intendant Dr. Markus Fein für Hameln bei den 23. Niedersächsischen Musiktagen der Sparkassenstiftung im Gepäck, als er die Besucher des Konzertes in der voll besetzten Marktkirche begrüßte: die Welturaufführung einer Auftragskomposition für das Calmus Ensemble aus Leipzig zusammen mit dem Raschèr Saxophone Quartet aus den USA an den Komponisten Mathew Rosenblum (geboren 1954).

Eingerahmt durch einen Text von Paul Celan zum Thema „Nacht“, erklingen in zehn kurzen Sätzen die Visionen des Komponisten von einer künftigen Welt, eindrucksvoll, bedrängend, düster. Eine beeindruckende Ensembleleistung brachte das durchaus schwierige Werk zu einer nachhaltigen Wirkung…

Es war ein ganz besonderes Konzert, vielfarbig zwischen des Genres wechselnd, aufregend ob manch moderner Töne, auch anregend zugleich und doch beruhigend am Schluss, als beide Ensembles gemeinsam die Zugabe sangen und spielten: „Der Mond ist aufgegangen“. Besinnlich, wie das Konzert begonnen hatte, endete es. Großer Beifall, Blumen und ein begeistertes Publikum.”

Double Concerto

“Mathew Rosenblum s Double Concerto for baritone saxophone and percussion, a premiere, packed the Jordan Hall stage with players and instruments; the music was a similar throng of ideas and effects … the swirling mass produced some wonderful sounds: percolating saxophone punctuated with prog-rock drums, shiny diatonic scaffolding crushed into a lustrous microtonal chorale.”

Gymnopédie for Art Jarvinen

“Mathew Rosenblum’s “Gymnopedie for Arthur Jarvinen,” who died in 2010, proved to be an exquisite tribute. Hanick’s baby grand piano featured a second, electronic keyboard for Rosenblum’s special tuning, which was just slightly higher in pitch on some notes and much more on others. Rosenblum’s mastery in playing the two sets of tunings off each other stretched the music’s expressive range.”