A Far Cry is a self-conducted chamber/string orchestra based in Boston, MA made up of 18 members from the Boston area. They are an incredible ensemble pushing the boundaries of "classical" music, with premieres of new music as well as performances and recordings of contemporary music in general. "The Law of Mosaics" is their first release on Crier Records, their in-house label. There is a second release out now too that I will post soon. Both Andrew Norman's electrifying "The Companion Guide To Rome" and Ted Hearne's "Law Of Mosaics" impressed me right away. This is an entirely fresh sonic experience (and in several sections of the Hearn piece, an exciting "mash-up" of sorts injects through quotation familiar gems from the Baroque, imo thrilling in effect. This certainly isn't a lush Respighi transcription!) The last movement of Norman's "The Companion Guide To Rome", "Sabina" is especially memorable (it's also a stand-alone piece) in it's lyricism and I find myself playing it several times, repeat style.
In 2007, composer and newly minted Rome Prize-recipient Andrew Norman found himself among 15 artists and 15 scholars heading to the Eternal City for a period of several months of reflection and writing. The defining work produced from this opportunity was "The Companion Guide to Rome, a 30-plus minute string trio (later also for string orchestra as played here) in nine movements, each one taking cue from a different Roman church, that in 2012 was named as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music. Norman describes the work as being "informed by the proportions of the churches, the qualities of their surfaces, the patterns in their floors, the artwork on their walls, and the lives and legends of the saints whose names they bear. The more I worked on these miniatures, the less they had to do with actual buildings and the more they became character studies of imaginary people, my companions for a year of living in the Eternal City."
"The Companion Guide to Rome", which changes mood and mode on a dime, is launched (1st movement, "Teresa") with frenzied layers of glissandi. The experience is disorienting, not unlike a jet-lagged stumble through the narrow streets of an unfamiliar city. In less than a minute, transported into movement two, "Benedetto", resonant puffs of rising, flute-like lines expose the height of the space. Here, and throughout the architecturally-inspired Companion Guide, Norman evocatively delineates the contours of individual interiors–and the wonder that accompanies such first impressions-through cyclic motives, lofty harmonics and consonant chords that wander in and out of focus. (Of particular note is violist Jason Fisher’s solo entry, "Susanna", which shivers and stutters like dried leaves at the steps of a secluded chapel. Again prepare to be entertained and wowed (I know I am anyhow!). A complete knock-out.
A preternaturally talented aural cannibal, Ted Hearne dines on Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and, of course, Companion Guide to Rome among others for his half of the album. It is A Far Cry’s deft timbral manipulations and Hearne’s lack of irony that invite seventh and eighth listens. I think everyone will be cracking a grin with the appearance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in the second movement, "Palindrome for Andrew Norman", with said fragments of Baroque music abruptly slicing into the contemporary whirlwind-this too I play over and over, can't get enough. The thrust here is not the proverbial wink-wink, but an ecstatic, virtuosic savoring of the canon. Like shaking a bin of Legos, a coveted piece that has been there all along suddenly materializes at the top of the heap. The heavy dose of reverb applied to Hearne's work may at first throw some listeners for a loop (as it keeps the players at a distance), however the device seems intentional upon further passes. An absolute knock-out as well.