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Peter Grahame Woolf
Musical Pointers, October 2008

This is beautiful music (granted beauty is in the ear of the beholder) to our loss rarely likely to be encounted in UK which should pose no problems for listeners who are familiar with, say, the sound worlds of Scelsi, Xenakis and early Penderecki. Quoting from Kyle Gann’s notes for Naxos, Coates—the most prolific female symphonist in history (15 ties her with Shostakovich)—made a career out of the slow glissando!

Start with the moving bi-lingual songs of War in 1942 (texts in both English and German provided) composed 1972 in Munich, where she still lives, ‘with its careful attention to the primacy of the text’. The six songs are gripping and moving, even if today’s events make the optimistic ending ring a little hollow: “If all these great dyings can teach us how to live in peace then all these sorrows were not in vain”.

Marvellously sung by Terri Dunn, it would make its memorable effect anywhere.

Symphony No 15 (2005, recorded at rehearsal; no harm in that?) is far from neo-classical, albeit she quotes Mozart’s last motet, Ave Verum Corpus, played backwards towards the end.

Transitions (1984) has ’the same overlay of glissandos and tonal chorales’ in a more stripped-down chamber context, Dido’s When I Am Laid in Earth clearly heard. Coates’s music ‘sets us down in musical landscapes which disallow our usual figure-ground experiences of focusing within a musical texture’.



Amelia Raitt
eMusic, October 2008

Gloria Coates is modern music’s most prolific female composer. This release, containing her 15th symphony and two early works, showcases many of the elements that have made Coates such a singular voice in the 20th century symphonic landscape. Listen to the second movement of the 15th, for example, and you’ll hear Coates quote Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus” (the entire symphony is subtitled “Homage to Mozart”). In that same piece, you’ll also hear the unbelievable effect of numerous glissandos played at once. Taken out of context, the mass sounds like a turntable slowly dying, struggling to eke out notes before the motor stops. It’s an unsettling and emotional symphony, one that takes many cues from Coates earlier piece, Transitions—also included here. In Transitions, however, the piece is stripped down to a chamber piece. Gone is the overwhelming dread of chorused tones. Here, it is replaced by open spaces and lonely soloists striking out on their own, as though the music isn’t quite sure of how it feels or what it’s trying to say. This, of course, is its strength and what makes Coates such a unique composer.



Raymond Tuttle
Classical Net, October 2008

Although American-born and educated, composer Gloria Coates has spent much of her career in Germany. Indeed, there’s little about her music that sounds American (whatever that is, but we generally know it when we hear it). It is not much of a surprise to learn that her Symphony No. 1 was a sensation at the 1978 Warsaw Autumn Festival—the same Festival that has showcased the music of Penderecki and other progressive European composers since 1956. As a composer, Coates seems to have more in common with Penderecki and other sonorist composers than with her American contemporaries.

Her Fifteenth Symphony is a very impressive work, but it will not leave listeners feeling very settled. The opening movement, titled “Iridescences,” sounds like the cries of a machine that has become trapped in the permafrost. Irresistible forces meet immovable objects, and the result is a sort of harmonic stasis that nevertheless audibly corrodes over the course of the movement. “Puzzle Canon” refers to a theme in Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus which is approximately quoted—first backwards then forwards—during the course of the movement, as the strings engulf it in the sap of Coates’s trademark glissandos. “What Are Stars?”, a title taken from Emily Dickinson, is built from a meandering brass chorale, threatening timpani, and a chaotic mesh of glissandos. Undoubtedly, Mozart would have been nonplused by this symphony, composed in honor of his 250th birthday, but perhaps he would have been fascinated, as I am, by its daring sounds and its doom-filled atmosphere.

The relatively early (1972) Cantata da Requiem looks at World War II from the viewpoints of women on either side of the conflict—from a young German widow to American poet Marianne Moore. (One of the stopping points in between is a sinister BBC weather report which indicates that “conditions [are] ideal for bombing offensives.”) Coates makes no attempt to sentimentalize the thoughts and fears of these women, and the Cantata da Requiem is no less harsh than it needs to be. Again, the instrumental writing is highly imaginative, even descriptive, and the vocal lines, while uncomfortable, match both the words themselves and their intensity.

Transitions (1984), later reworked into Coates’s Fourth Symphony (recorded by the CPO label), is a chamber symphony. Coates explains that it is “the translation of metaphysical experiences” she had after the death of her father. The first movement, “Illumination,” gradually reveals itself to be built around “Dido’s Lament” from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, although the mournful melody, presented by the piano and trombone, is thwarted by the rest of the ensemble’s disruptive grumblings and swoopings. “Mystical Plosives” is rich in percussion, with slow glissandos and tremolos, and culminates in a grotesque dead march. “Dream Sequences” contains layers of slow string glissandos (both ascending and descending), percussion (spasmodic snare drum tattoos prominent), and inscrutable commentaries by winds and trombone. Much of the time, Transitions sounds like middle-period Stravinsky under the influence of heavy hallucinogens. It’s far from “pleasant” in the usual sense of the word, but it is never less than interesting, even fascinating.

These are live recordings from three different sources. The symphony was recorded at its final rehearsal in 2006, and the other two works were recorded in concert. Despite the disparity of sources, there are no jarring contrasts among the recordings; the quality of the sound is excellent throughout. As for the performances, they feel committed and confident, and one assumes that they have the composer’s approval. Kyle Gann’s helpful booklet notes guide the listener with Virgil-like care.

Coates is an important American original who has gone her own way with skill and purpose. Her music will not flatter the ear, but that hardly seems to have been her intention anyway. One admires her for sticking to her vision.



Elissa Poole
The Globe and Mail, June 2008

American composer Gloria Coates uses glissandi as other composers use scales, ubiquitously, unself-consciously and with infinite variety. Occasionally embedded in that slow-sliding matrix are simple triads, tonal chorales, canons and counterpoint. What these might symbolize to Coates we don’t know, but for us they evoke change—its gradual but inexorable progress, and the inevitable way the past sticks to the present even as it disintegrates. A fragment of Mozart, played backwards, underpins Symphony No 15; Dido’s Lament swims through the quicksand of a movement in Transitions, while one phrase in particular, wordless now, gasps for air: “Remember me!”



Robert Carl
Fanfare, May 2008

The 2004–05 Symphony No 15 is Coates’s most recent, and is subtitled “Homage to Mozart.” Do not expect a neo-Classical work though, as Kyle Gann stresses in his typically perceptive and lucid notes. Rather, this is a grand, stark vision, and Coates obviously used the circumstances of the commission (celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth) as a starting point for her own, quite personal tribute to Mozart’s genius, consequences be damned. It is in three movements. The first has dark, spacious, dissonant harmonies “breathing” throughout. When the underlying harmony shifts, one has a sense of monumental change usually associated with minimalist practice (even though this movement is only eight minutes long). The second is the only section of the piece with an overt Mozartean element. The winds play a tonal chorale against an increasingly wide and loud texture of sliding strings. The former turns out to be the Ave verum corpus played backwards (which in the second half of the work flips and plays back in its original form). There’s a sense of struggle between these two elements, and yet one also hears constantly “harmonious” intersections between them as well. The final movement moves between a tonal chorale, an alternatingly throbbing and rumbling timpani, and an almost completely “noisy” string glissando texture. It builds to a climax but staunchly refuses any true resolution. Ultimately, the entire work leaves us with questions, but one feels they are on a cosmic scale…the 1972 Cantata da Requiem (for soprano with a quartet of viola, cello, piano, and percussion) is an impassioned anti-war work, using alternating German and English poems written by women during WW II. It is a good blend of lyricism and expressionism…Transitions dates from 1984, and is scored for chamber orchestra. There are by this point most of the trademark features of her later voice, in particular the glissandos and the embedded tonal artifacts. The composer later arranged it for full orchestra to make her Symphony No.4, and I can understand why, as the piece brings up the following point about Coates’s music.

When heard in a texture stressing solo instruments, Coates’s music does sound a little “thin.” The gestures seem a little too simple for their sonic media, straining too hard to make a point. On the other hand, the orchestra music, even though it probably looks very similar on the page, is successful precisely because there is a balance between these simple, “raw” musical ideas and the powerful sonority of the full orchestra. This is not a case of the music needing a heavy orchestration to hide a paucity of material. Rather, it’s that in the orchestra Coates finds the perfect match between her ideas, and sounds with the proper weight to deliver their maximum impact.

All of these are either live performances or dress rehearsals, which I salute, as it’s nearly impossible to get studio recordings of large ensemble works today, unless one is very very famous, lucky in patronage, or willing to pay oneself. The sonic results are fine…the new symphony is still a jaw-dropper. Worth the price of admission for that alone.



Gimbel
American Record Guide, May 2008

The Gloria Coates discography continues to grow. Her recent Symphony 15 (2004–5) is characteristically dark and forbidding, even though it bears the subtitle Homage to Mozart. The second of its three movements quotes Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus (backwards) amidst Coates’s typical smeary glissandos; the finale is built around a somber quasi-tonal chorale written by Coates herself (the Wisconsin-born composer has spent most her career in Germany, and it sounds it). That final movement bears an epigraph by Emily Dickinson, helping to Americanize its message somewhat. The work’s overall tone is thoroughly symphonic in the German manner, the piece’s structure leaden and devoid of air (is this really an “American Classic”, as Naxos is trying to market it?) The tonal references (both hers and Mozart’s) contribute to the relentless gloom. This is a true post-9–11 symphony, devoid of hope and choking with fear and grief. (Though references to that event are not mentioned in connection with this piece, I couldn’t help but feel one. Coates’s actual 9–11 homage is her Eighth Quartet—Naxos 559152, M/J 2004)

The gloom becomes explicit with the 1972 Cantata da Requiem, a group of harrowing World War II scenes for soprano and small chamber group. There is a searing portrait of a ‘Young Widow’, a terrifying ‘BBC Weather Report’ (“Temperatures have soared to almost summer levels, making conditions ideal for bombing offensives”), descriptions of said ‘Flying Bombers’, a note from a German school teacher at the time, and a few relevant lines from a 1943 Bavarian newspaper. The set concludes with some rare Coatesian optimism:

“If all these great dyings…can teach us how to live in peace, then all these dyings…were not in vain” (Marianne Moore). The tonal tremololaden conclusion, well-meaning as it is, seems corny and forced, but its sentiment is (alas) still relevant. Canadian soprano Teri Dunn is very effective in these difficult little pieces, which are well attuned to the topic (they were written in the Vietnam War years, and were intended as a protest). Texts (included) alternate between German and English.

The closer, Transitions (1984), for chamber ensemble, would become Coates’s Fourth Symphony (CPO 999392). Written for the death of her father, the first movement buries Purcell’s ‘When I Am Laid in Earth’ underneath weeping, slow-motion glissandos. II suggests a death march, which continues in mournful sadness in the inconsolable last movement, a nightmarish ‘Dream Sequence’ of unrelated snippets of music seemingly glued together in a depressed, somnolent haze.

This is a reasonable introduction to Ms Coates’s music, well played and recorded, and at budget price. For adventurous listeners only—with a taste for contemplating the agonies of death.



Philip Clark
The Wire, April 2008

Four discs into a cycle of her music on budget classical label Naxos, the music of Munich based, expat American composer Gloria Coates remains unfailingly compelling. If the subtitle of her 15th symphony (2004–05), Homage To Mozart, implies a sort of tepid neoclassicism, then this isn’t a piece to endear itself with those high classical purists at the Salzburg Festival. Coates doesn’t cozy up to classical tradition, instead she slams Mozart’s material against modernist realities. She encases it in alien orchestral clothes, twisting it around her trademark string glissandi and fragmenting it to all corners of the orchestra. Like Helmut Lachenmann’s demolition of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in his Accanto, Coates is seeking an essence of Mozart that the passage of time and cynical commercial commodification has destroyed.

The piece unfolds in three tautly constructed sections: the first blends rising string glissandi against the rise and fall of oscillating timpani tremolos. The music stutters onwards, its spectrum of cluster-harmony morphing slowly as it occupies fresh orchestral colours. In the second section Coates quotes from Mozart’s last motet, Ave Verum Corpus, running the original backwards and overlaying it with glissandi. Mozart’s clean voice-leading is wrenched apart and sounds like a relic reclaimed from out of the debris.

The disc also includes Transitions (1984), a curiously Varèse-like orchestral soundscape that references Henry Purcell, and Cantata Da Requiem (1972), Coates’s dark lamentation about war and loss. These visceral scores tell it like it is—there’s nothing else quite like it in contemporary music.



Steve Hicken
Sequenza21.com, March 2008

What makes this music so compelling is the way these simple, clearly identifiable gestures are put together. Actually, they are often forced together, and it’s the strain of the disparate elements coming together that gives Coates’ music its dark, expressive power.

A fine example of this power is the second movement of the Fifteenth Symphony (“Homage to Mozart”). A wind chorale is gradually overcome by massive, slow glissandos in the strings. Simplicity itself, but indelible nonetheless.

All of the performances on this remarkable program are top notch. Soprano Teri Dunn gives a moving reading of the soprano part in the Cantata da Requiem, a setting of texts by American and German women written during the Second World War. The instrumental ensembles all play Coates’ difficult-sounding music with apparent ease, born of commitment and understanding.



Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, March 2008

No sleepy lagoons here, this Coates writes music of uncompromising modernity. It’s certainly as contemporary as it gets, the symphony composed for Mozart’s 250th anniversary (2006), the other two works dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. One hesitates to use the word ‘accessible’—sometimes misconstrued as a criticism—but Coates’s sound-world fuses intellectual rigour with moments of genuine power and emotion; the end result is music of considerable interest and appeal.

The symphony’s first movement ‘Iridescences’ certainly has a shimmer, a glow, achieved through the use of extended glissandi and pulsing, elemental percussion. There’s a mesmeric quality to the music which, strange as it may seem, doesn’t so much transfix as endlessly fascinate. And it isn’t amorphous either, displaying plenty of bone and sinew.

Given that this symphony is subtitled ‘Homage to Mozart’, it’s not surprising the second movement ‘Puzzle Canon’ contains what the liner-notes refer to as a ‘quasi quotation’ from the Ave Verum Corpus K.618. The same slides and subterranean drums permeate this section, although submarine might be more accurate; indeed, in his liner-notes Kyle Gunn characterises this music as ‘wavery’. That’s not to suggest it’s tremulous or uncertain; in fact it’s complex, edgy, always evolving. The material is worked to a powerful climax at 7:11 before giving way to a serene Mozartian theme—albeit filtered through Coates’s distorting lens. It’s really memorable stuff, the juxtaposition as startling as it is effective.

With that ‘puzzle’ out of the way ‘What Are Stars?’ takes its cue from an Emily Dickinson poem. Again there is a strong elemental drive, the timps providing a constantly questing bass line. Boder and his Vienna radio band play this score with obvious commitment and concentration, bringing out all those ‘wavery’ timbres and pulses. The original engineers—presumably with the Austrian broadcaster ORF—have done the score proud, providing a clear yet warm sound. There is weight aplenty and the strings have lots of body, which really helps to give this music its tingle factor.

Although she is American-born Coates has lived in Munich since 1969, so she’s been at the heart of contemporary European music and intellectual debate for some years now. Not surprising, then, that her Cantata da Requiem, which dates from the dying days of the Vietnam War, reflects this.

Subtitled ‘WWII Poems for Peace’ the Cantata is based on a series of wartime texts, beginning with a grieving widow, ‘The twilight slowly enveloped me and / Pressed icily against my breast’. It is music of unstinting angularity and grief, the emphasis on exposed, individual instrumental voices. The Canadian soprano Terri Dunn has some pretty taxing passages to sing, falling to quieter episodes sung almost sotto voce.

After the brief ‘BBC Weather Report 1942’—echoes of Britten’s Sea Interludes, perhaps—comes the aria ‘The Flying Bombers’. This looks ahead to the sound blocks of the symphony—and backwards to the Polish avant-garde composer Penderecki’s Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima—as it mimics the drone of bombers flying ‘God knows where’. And as a technique Coates’s use of glissandi can surely be traced back to another of Penderecki’s early works, Polymorphia (1961).

Elfriede’s sad little notations of war are much sparer in texture, gaunt even, which makes for the strongest possible contrast with what has gone before. The short poem ‘Run, rain, run’—taken from a wartime German newspaper—may come a little too close to sentimentality for some but Coates infuses the score with enough martial menace to keep mawkishness at bay.

Those restless, unquiet timps link all these fragments, including Marianne Moore’s ‘All These Dyings’, written in 1942; although it is unremittingly bleak—‘All the world is an orphans home’—the text and the music do at least modulate into a key of hope, ending with an affirmative chorale for soloist and players.

The Cantata is very much a piece of its time, a potent mix of angry polemic and naive optimism. This ‘protest music’ obviously resonates most strongly with listeners of like mind, but cynics might dismiss it as hopelessly idealistic, even quaint. Whatever your response Dunn and the Toronto-based Talisker Players deliver the work’s simple message with uncommon energy and conviction.

Skipping ahead 12 years to Transitions we are back in terra cognita. The ‘signature’ instrumental slides and percussive pulses are there in ‘Illumination’, aided and abetted by a strange, repetitive figure on the piano. There is a strong sense of music in flux, elastic even, stretching and contracting. It’s all very effective and the Ars Nova Ensemble Nuremberg—the visceral percussion especially—are vividly captured in a warm, vibrant acoustic.

Intriguingly ‘Mystical Plosives’ makes use of the nine-note scale invented by the Russian composer Alexander Tcherepnin (1899–1977), with whom Coates studied for a time. This appears in the grotesque little march towards the end of this eruptive movement, which Gunn aptly describes as a ‘noise fest’. Equally quirky is ‘Dream Sequence’, in which Coates creates the effect of a cosmic string being tuned, surrounded by ecstatic bursts of light and colour.

This collection won’t please everyone—too radical for some, too tame for others—but inquisitive listeners will revel in a sound-world that positively explodes with imagination and brilliance. And how extraordinary that Coates, the most prolific female symphonist in history, is rarely heard outside the new music circuit. All credit to Naxos for bringing her work to a wider audience—it’s long overdue.




Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, March 2008

One of the more interesting of the Modernists, an American living in Munich

Gloria Coates is an American in Munich (since 1969) that has the honor of being the most prolific woman symphonist we have today. She also studied with Alexander Tcherepnin and has been a tireless advocate for American music overseas and at home, where she also maintains a residence. Kyle Gann, the author of the notes to this release, has served as an advocate for many years, and his excellent notes attempt to explain her music, but it is quite difficult to categorize. One might say that she remains at the forefront of “modern” music, and one cannot approach her work in a traditional manner. She relies heavily on string glissandos, and if you heard only one of her pieces you might think it mere gimmickry. However, the technique is found everywhere in her work, and so the conclusion must be that there is something about it that she feels really expresses something deep down.

Her latest symphony (No. 15) is a good example, with the first movement immediately introducing us to this construct, and after patient and not-easy listening you can actually begin to understand her fascination with glissandos and the fact that she has adopted the technique as a means for expression almost as another composer adopts major triads. Not that those are missing from her work either, as there is a Alfred Schnittke-like obsession with emerging tonal ghosts from other periods of time floating through much of her work. Both the Symphony…and the Transitions for chamber orchestra explore this concept, the latter piece eventually turning into her Forth Symphony. The music is static for most of the time, occasionally with some slow motion, and she is not averse to incorporating literal accounts of aspects of music from other periods, as when the chaconne bass line from “Dido’s Lament” in Dido and Aeneas by Purcell serves as the unifying factor in the first movement of Transitions.

The most interesting piece is the Cantata da Requiem (originally titled Voices of Women in Wartime) written when she toured the concentration camp in Dachau at the time of the Vietnam War and the Olympic terrorist attack. It is set for voice, strings, piano, and percussion, and cleverly uses a variety of German and English texts from the poetry of Marianne Moore to a wartime BBC weather report to a poem from a 1943 Bavarian newspaper. I found the work subtle and affecting, words I cannot use about the two other pieces here, perhaps because the setting of words force the composer to be more direct in expression than the abstract titles that litter the other pieces.

Performances do the music credit, and the sound is very good in all three works.



Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle, February 2008

The work of composer Gloria Coates is one of those wonderful hidden treasures that manage to slip through the cracks of the music world, then surface later to general delight. A 69-year-old American living in Germany, Coates writes symphonies that are compact, inventive and hauntingly lovely. Her latest, No. 15, moves with powerful elusiveness between episodes of sweet tonal harmony and dark, streaky orchestral glissandos; the effect is like watching a watercolor landscape dissolving into a blur. But the real gem on this disc is the “Cantata da Requiem” (1972), a magnificent chamber setting of World War II-era poetry from England and Germany done with a similar mixture of sentiment and terror. Soprano Teri Dunn is the eloquent soloist with the Talisker Players.



Robert Cummings
Classical Net, January 2008

American-born, Munich, Germany-based composer Gloria Coates (b. 1938) writes music in an unusual style: she is best known for her imaginative use of slow string glissandos, as well as for chorales that are often sourced in famous works of other composers. She also employs faster glissandos, creating an almost slithering, eerie effect, and often gives her music a sense of constant seething. These descriptions apply most accurately to the newest work here, the Symphony No. 15, from 2004–05.

Cast in three movements and lasting a little over 22 minutes here, the work has that trademark mysterious quality found in so many large works by Coates. The second movement, subtitled Puzzle Canon, quotes Mozart’s final motet, Ave Verum Corpus. Therein lies the connection to Mozart in the work’s subtitle; otherwise, there is nothing else here that bears any similarity to that master’s music. The Ave Verum Corpus theme, as played here, sounds vaguely like that in Luther’s famous Ein’ Feste Burg. But Coates quotes it backwards, making it truly a “Puzzle Canon”.

The symphony is interesting throughout, both in Coates’ use of her trademark wares and other thematic material, as well as in her imaginative orchestration. It isn’t a harsh work or at the forefront of avant-garde expression by any means, but it isn’t conventional either in its lack of catchy or easily recognizable melodies. Her music has been called “Space Age”, but it’s tougher stuff than that glitzy tag implies and it’s also more substantive, especially as heard in the Symphony No. 15. The performance here, from a live rehearsal on June 16, 2006, is quite convincing on all counts.

The vocal work, Cantata da Requiem, is a relatively early effort, coming from 1972, when it was titled Voices of Women in Wartime. It is quite different in style from the symphony. Scored for viola, cello, piano and percussion, and using various German and English texts that employ descriptions and lamentations about war and loss, it comes across with a dark, tense and dissonant character in the first five of its six numbers. But in the latter half of the last, All These Dyings, the work closes optimistically, with quite lovely, accessible music that reminds me, at least in its mood and sudden shift toward tonality and optimism, to the close of the finale of Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3 (Kaddish). The performance by the Talisker players is excellent and soprano Terri Dunn also turns in fine work…

The final offering here, Transitions (1984), opens up with howls and other glissando-like effects that more than vaguely recall the river foghorn sounds in Edgar Varese’s Ameriques. Again, there is much use of the slow glissando in this three-movement work, though the scoring here, for chamber orchestra, is a bit more subdued. The composer made a larger version of the piece as her Fourth Symphony. The first movement (Illumination) has a mechanical sound in much of the piano writing and percussion effects, though the orchestra tends to be dreamy and mysterious, in contrast. The second movement (Mystical Plosives) is more agitated, with percussion dominated by clacks, eerie piano chords, and tinkling, trilling bells. Glissandos and howls continue here too, as the “transitions” activity moves the music away from seething mystery toward turmoil. The finale (Dream Sequence) halts that advance and turns toward the otherworldly. Glissandos and howls here seem to look toward the heavens, though perhaps in one’s dreams. The work is always interesting, though perhaps not as compelling as its companions here. The performances again are excellent.

The notes by Kyle Gann are informative and the sound reproduction in all works is vivid. Recommended to those listeners interested in modern music.




Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, December 2007

“Fascinating new music from an increasingly known 69-year-old composer receiving its premiere on disc.”



David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2007

Those who have been following Gloria Coates’ symphonic cycle being released on Naxos will know what to expect from the Fifteenth and most recent symphony completed in 2005. There are the expected growling basses that open the work topped off with a slow moving rhythmic pattern, while the second movement has one of her now familiar long slow sliding passages that passes through the orchestra with a growing dynamic. There is one brief moment in the opening movement when we arrive at a tonal chord which may signify a major change in her outlook. The third movement predictably has her oft used military feel in its rhythmic structure. The whole work is short in duration at twenty-two minutes, but manages to embrace most of the ideas we have frequently heard in previous symphonies. With this work the American-born composer claims to have more symphonies than any other woman composer, which may well be true. Now living in Munich, it was her visits to Germany’s Second World War extermination camps that generated the Cantata da Requiem ‘WW II Poems for Peace’ completed in 1972, the words written on both sides of the conflict. If at times the music is predictably stylized in a traditional harmonic mode of vocal writing, it appeals to me far more than her symphonic output. Transitions completed in 1984 for chamber orchestra, was later expanded to form the Fourth Symphony. The idea for the first movement is to have Purcell’s Aria When I am laid in Earth played against a background of shimmering weird sounds. Coates writes like no other, so similarities do not exist, and I would suggest you try this track and if it is to your taste it will open to you her strange world. The following two movements return to long slides, and need one say, to those military rhythms. Many artists are involved, Teri Dunn being the soprano soloist in the Cantata; the Symphony played by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, with Ars Nova Ensemble in Transitions. All come from ‘live’ performances, the commitment shown demonstrating the effect that Coates can have on some ears. Sound quality from desperate sources is remarkably consistent in ambience and excellent in quality.






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