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Classical Music Review

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First Light


Composer: Jackson Greenberg
Conductor: Arturo Rodriguez
Performed by: Slovak National Symphony Orchestra
Label: Ravello Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 13 March 2020

Ravello Records has released a mini-LP, First Light, featuring performances of two innovative works by composer Jackson Greenberg. Here, human inspiration and the machine mind come together to produce music of startling richness and beauty...

Jackson Greenberg's First Light contains two very different composition (23 min, 57 sec). After years of listening and reviewing contemporary classical music that repeat the same old cliches, this album was like a breath of fresh air. The opening track, 'First Light' (16 min) has elements that instantly get under your skin and tug at the heart strings. It opens beautifully, with the sound of ethereal drones. This gentle meditation slowly builds in dynamic intensity. Almost indiscernibly, instrument families join the accumulating harmonic roar like the rays of daybreak cresting over some desolate, faraway planet. The music was composed by feeding short compositions into a computer program that stretched them up to ten times their original length, creating vibrant distortions that stir the soul with their strange humanity.

The second track (7 min, 57 sec) is a musical setting of the Rainer Rilke poem, 'The Panther.' Greenberg eschewed the use of a singer for this performance, instead composing music around a decades-old public domain recording of the poem, recited in its original German. While I know the poem is an integral part of the piece, I was hoping that, as the album is so short, an instrumental only version would also have been included. While markedly different in both style and production to the first piece, it is also a slow, drawn out affair with a lot of heart.

Both pieces are incredibly emotive. Those that enjoy melancholic classical music will find plenty to soak up here. This is a truly beautiful album that will stir your soul.


Darren Rea

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