Seeing is Believing
22nd February 2011
The Aurora Orchestra visited Snape in October last year to record music by the American composer Nico Muhly, including the concerto for six-string electric violin Seeing is Believing, commissioned by the orchestra in 2008. The disc is now available to purchase from Decca Classics
Please see below to watch live footage from the recording sessions and interviews with the composer, performers, and producer.
Minimalism, electronic fusion, and early English choral music don’t generally sit together comfortably within the same sentence, still less on the same classical disc. That fact alone makes Seeing Is Believing worth a listen, aside from these superb performances.
Seeing Is Believing references the ancient practise of observing and mapping the sky. His third album for Decca Classics, it punctuates four of Muhly’s original compositions with three of his orchestral arrangements, of motets by Byrd and Gibbons. Miserere Mei is particularly fascinating for the fact in which initially it appears to be a literal orchestration job, thanks to the way he has carefully conserved the original vocal part-writing. However, upon the opening of the “Zion is wasted” section, everything changes. Carefully placed little modern twists appear in the shape of registral extremes in the piano and gamelan gongs, which surprise, delight, and thoroughly update the originals whilst maintaining all their sense of antiquity and sacred dignity. They’re mesmerising complements to his original compositions, which are edgy, sometimes delicate, vital works, heavy with the influence of the great American minimalists but also drawing from modern electronic idioms. The title-track, a concerto for electric violin, is a case in point, played with brilliance by Thomas Gould. Equally brilliant are the Aurora Orchestra’s performances. In the motet arrangements, their playing style is a delicious amalgam of early and contemporary playing styles, whilst the original works are presented with energy, dynamism and a sheer joy in the music.