MIRAGE? For vibraphone, cloud gongs (one soloist) and string orchestra. Commissioned by  the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for Dame Evelyn Glennie and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. 2009 . 12 minutes, Score and parts available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.

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Commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for Dame Evelyn Glennie and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Mirage? was composed during the winter months of 2009. It was a time when the world was entering an economic downturn which has often been compared with the Great Depression of the 1930s. This dark period was preceded by years of greed, selfishness, political and economic opportunism and plain disregard for basic human rights all over the world which necessitated the present period of cleansing and testing so we can hopefully reclaim our humanity and faith through the trials and tribulations of today’s economic and geopolitical crucible. Looking back at the previous period of careless and callous accumulation of wealth by the few at the expense of many, one wonders if the exorbitant life-style which we, the residents of the developed nations, managed to sustain for several decades at the expense of the developing world and the underprivileged among us was real or a mirage: sweet, lovely and seductive, but a mirage non-the-less. The unmistakable connection between the years preceding the present crisis and the “roaring twenties” accounts for the particular musical styles used in the composition and the question mark in the title. The music of Mirage? is permeated by a sense of sadness, and at one point, of despair. It is lamenting the loss of something pleasurable that could not be held on to: of a way of living that less fortunate generations in our post-apocalyptic future may find hard to believe as possible and relegate instead to the domains of myth and legend, like the myths and legends of lost continents and civilizations of our distant past that are still pounding at the threshold of our collective memory. Were they mirages too or are we failing the same test over and over again, destroying ourselves and others in the process while blotting our legacy in the collective memory of humankind? I don’t know if the music of Mirage? answers any of these questions, but these were the questions that led to its being. Perhaps there is still hope, that is hope for human solutions before God and nature take matters into their own hand, but during the days of composing this work that too seemed like a mirage.


Premiere performance: September 9, 2009. Dame Evelyn Glennie, percussion; The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Anne Manson, conductor. Westminster Church; Winnipeg, Manitoba.


Reviews:

Completed earlier this year, [Mirage?] is a fascinating and enigmatic work giving soloist and orchestra equal billing. Opening with eerie slides up the strings' fingerboards, it soon swung into a stylish undulating rhythm, reminiscent of the 1920s. Repeated notes in the vibraphone, like the tolling of a clock, seemed to mark the passing of time. Contradictory motifs, alternately ominous and conciliatory went back and forth among the instruments, complementing one another. Even the drone of a plane overhead during a quiet moment seemed to fit in with the doomsday atmosphere. This was a very moving piece—well executed and well received. Gwenda Nemerofsky, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS (Canada) September 11, 2009.

  Hallucination Building

“A modern Canadian composer attends the premičre of a work to hear its last performance.” This bon mot by the distinguished Calgary musician Quenten Doolittle has become proverbial. Yet there are exceptions to the rule — and Toronto’s Christos Hatzis is one of them. To say that Hatzis is a successful composer would be a grave understatement. The “contemporary Canadian master,” as The New Yorker described him, was born in Greece, spent some years in the U.S. where he received his academic training, and then became Canadian by choice. Beginning in the late 1970s, Hatzis has slowly but surely built a tremendous career. With a string of recordings on EMI, Sony, Naxos, CBC Records and other first-rate labels, often successfully competing in sales with pop albums, his presence on the international classical stage is now comparable to that of Philip Glass, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, Arvo Pärt, Krzysztof Penderecki, or Steve Reich. The man already is a Canadian icon and an international cultural institution. Despite his success, the composer oozes modesty and restraint. “I call myself an imitator,” he is quick to confess, “but not in the conventional sense of the word. When I say I’m an imitator, I refer to Him who guides me and maps out creative decisions for me.... As a musician and a human being, I feel that I must follow my conductor’s cue. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but what I think much art lacks most these days is spirituality.” Spirituality permeates practically every one of Hatzis’ compositions, including his groundbreaking multimedia masterpiece, Constantinople, for which he received a Juno. The newest one, Mirage? for percussion and chamber orchestra, which has its Edmonton premičre on Sept. 20, follows the same path. Hatzis explains its origins: “The piece, a percussion concerto, was commissioned by CBC for the Scottish virtuosa Dame Evelyn Glennie — also known in the pop world for her collaborations with Björk and Bobby McFerrin — and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra led by the truly fantastic Anne Manson, for their Western Canadian tour, which is now in progress. The music deals with the modern societies’ blatantly materialistic obsessions and temptations. I see a connection between the years preceding the present crisis and the ‘Roaring ’20s’ leading to Black Tuesday [Oct. 29, 1929] and the subsequent Great Depression. It is a sad piece, perhaps even a cry of despair, but for the modern world to survive, it is imperative to turn away from the seductive mirages of the exorbitant lifestyle.” Maestra Anne Manson speaks about Hatzis in almost poetic terms. “His sounds breathe space,” she says. “The opening build-up, with more and more light let in, is enchanting. At times, the music feels incredibly free, perhaps because it is so imbued with jazz. The piece is marvelous, and rarely have I seen a modern composition so successful with audiences. It is a veritable tour de force!” Hatzis means business. He’s currently hard at work on another big project which promises to cause a stir — a chamber opera centring on the last days of another Canadian legend, the 19th-century First Nations poet and writer Pauline Johnson. His co-writer? Some unknown author named Margaret Atwood.
Piotr Grella-Mozejko Music Feature, See Magazine (Edmonton, Canada) September 17, 2009.

 

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