World premiere: Nov. 19, 2016 Sale Apollinee del Teatro la Fenice, Venice, Italy; Plurimo Ensemble
There is something of a consensus from Fanfare reviewers that Louis Karchin is something of an unrecognized jewel of a composer, and I am happy to add my voice to the chorus. We are in distinctly Modernist territory here (Karchin’s teachers include Fred Lerdahl, Gunther Schuller, and Bruno Maderna); and yet, it is Karchin’s ear that stops this from being objectivist and forbidding. Take the very first sonority of Dreamscape (2016) for oboe and violin, a melding of high oboe with a violin tremolo between written pitch and the harmonic two octaves and a fifth above. It is otherworldly, and clearly challenging for the performers; it is a measure of Jacqueline Leclair and Miranda Cuckson’s control over their instruments that the sound field is so convincingly conjured. There is playfulness here, too, in amongst the quarter-tones and the multiphonics. The work is a response to Mallarmé’s poem “Apparition” (a love poem), and there is no doubting that Karchin explores the two instrument’s relationship while, towards the end, inserting a barcarolle, acknowledging the place of the work’s premiere (Venice).