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Torke to Conduct Present Music in the Premiere of Song of Isaiah

April 2002

Michael Torke conducts Present Music in the premiere of Song of Isaiah, for amplified soprano and ensemble , on Saturday, April 20 at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Song of Isaiah will also be heard in a preview performance at the First Unitarian Meeting House in Madison (April 19), in a performance at Milwaukee’s Cathedral of St. John (April 21), and in a live studio radio broadcast from WFMT in Chicago (April 22).

embedded rhythms
Song of Isaiah was commissioned for the 20th anniversary of Present Music, and to honor Archbishop Rembert Weakland for his 25 years of service to the community. ( Torke is a Milwaukee native himself.) As in many of Torke’s vocal works, Song of Isaiah explores relationships between rhythm, text, and structure. Notes Torke, “A percussionist plays the rhythmic underpinning with a tambourine, claves, and in the center of the piece, a triangle. This spirited rhythm embodies slower embedded forms that are etched out melodically by the clarinets in octaves, and also by the strings and piano in octaves. These melodies are built up until they encompass the totality of the rhythm being tapped away, which articulates a kind of small musical confirmation. I am content to consider these ‘confirmations’ the extent to which I build to a climax.
a spirited meditation “In essence, there are no climaxes, as I wish the music to be a meditation, though the feeling is quite lively. Nine sections of the piece serve as episodic variations, and explore different small chunks of text from the Book of Isaiah. The form is a mirror: the first and ninth sections relate, as do the second and eighth, and so on; the fifth section (using the triangle) is in the exact center. The singer, riding on the top of these evolving melodies, sings the texts.”
purple prelude The Present Music event is titled ‘Purple Prelude,’ and also features Elena Kats-Chernin’s bittersweet ensemble work of the same title, heard in its American premiere.

Copyright © 2002 Michael Torke