Muhly Seeing is Believing

An electric violin concerto by this much-vaunted American composer

Author: 
Richard_Whitehouse

Muhly Seeing is Believing

  • Seeing is Believing
  • Miserere mei, Deus
  • Motion
  • This is the record of John
  • By All Means
  • Bow thine ear
  • Step Team

Decca is clearly intent on putting its weight behind Nico Muhly (30 this year), this third release of his music focusing on works for chamber orchestra, with Seeing is Believing a notable contribution to the electric violin concerto repertoire. Using the solo instrument’s inherently “wiry” timbre for a range of textural and harmonic layering, Muhly builds a piece of some impact – though neither the recourse to tried (rather “tired”?) and tested minimalist routines to increase momentum nor the overly affected credential writing towards the close suggest a deeper intent. Hardly the fault of Thomas Gould, who evinces undoubted empathy with the instrument, nor the Aurora Orchestra and Nicholas Collon, who dispatch its tests of ensemble securely. Step Team is even more exacting, yet here the main interest is in listening to how the players negotiate the music rather than its intrinsic content; at least until the coda streamlines the texture so what remains can exude a degree of pathos.

Perhaps due to their relative brevity, Motion and By All Means seem more satisfying: the former a pithy study in rhythmic punning, the latter suffuses an unlikely take on Weelkes and Webern with an unpredictability intriguing in its deft provocation. Less inventive though hardly less resourceful than, say, Adès’s Couperin transcriptions, the Elizabethan realisations are tailor-made encores ensembles such as the Aurora no doubt seize upon gratefully. John Rutter’s production, together with the informative notes and stylish packaging, enhance a disc that can hardly be faulted for first impressions.

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