Friday, January 15, 2010

In the afterglow of an evening celebrating the music of Ursula Mamlok I walked around all day yesterday with rich thoughts and feelings about this extraordinary woman and her magnificent music -- too much, apparently, to permit a brief blog post.

An appreciation of what she has accomplished entails an overview of 20th-century composition. It always felt to me as if a conspiracy was threatening to take over the musical imagination of a couple of generations paralyzed by war and displacement. It sounds simplistic to say it was serialism, and I don't mean to condemn serialism as a technique, it was rather a kind of atonality applied to hearing. It is as if music, according to this movement, was to be written so as not to be heard.

Ursula was one of the few who could not go there. Her love of sound, of the classics, of the feel of tone, comes through beginning already in the 60's, when she was told that if she wrote "like that" she would never have a career. Well, she has had a career and, at 87, continues to enjoy excellent performances by a whole new generation of players who love her music.

If you don't know her music I encourage you to go in pursuit. A new CD, Volume I of her works, has just been released on Bridge Records. It includes a knockout performance by Heinz Holliger of her oboe concerto: moving and hilarious in the great tradition. Bravo, Ursula!