Michael Torke: Tahiti
Who says classical music has to be profound to be enjoyable? If you listen to classical music to "chill out," this disc is for you - with the composer's stamp of approval. Michael Torke says that he "always wanted to write a composition that would inspire a woman - coming home from a long day of work - to draw a bath, light candles, and listen to it on her pink iPod." And he has, times two, with "Tahiti," the title composition, and "Fiji" - fun pieces with a depth that listeners can explore.
The Wisconsin-born composer achieved recognition with Javelin, his most frequently played piece, commissioned for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's 50th-anniversary season in conjunction with the 1996 Summer Olympics. The Philadelphia Orchestra will perform his Ash in January, 2012.
Torke delights in one-word titles and writes in a post-minimalist style infused with a pop-music sensibility, in terms of rhythm and harmony. From repeated phrases and patterns, he builds appealing melodic lines that go off in surprising directions.
The music on this disc evokes the sunny, breezy, and humid climes of the South Pacific. "Fiji" features an infectiously toe-tapping samba beat throughout its 17 minutes. "Tahiti" is an extended suite with a leisurely, laid-back feel. Though it explores a variety of tempos and textures, the music possesses an inner calm, never in a hurry to go anywhere. It takes some unexpected turns, but the destination is always someplace pleasant.
The two works - each for strings, woodwinds, keyboards, and percussion - were written expressly for Ensemble 10/10, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic's contemporary music ensemble. The group performs it here with precision and relish.
While this disc may indeed transport you to a state of relaxation, Michael Torke's music contains enough substance that you'll want to make many return trips.--Mark