Argentinian composer, conductor, and scholar Alicia Terzian’s new Navona release OFF THE EDGE is an incredible journey into the heart of the string orchestra. The four works on the album introduce listeners to Terzian’s captivating compositional perspective and enchanting treatment of this ensemble’s sonic potential. Her writing focuses heavily on the drama, nuance, and contrasts accessible through instrumental color, and OFF THE EDGE showcases numerous audacious textures involving the string orchestra, with different percussion instruments,chorus,soloists and voice.
To this end, Terzian’s work Tres Piezas para Orquesta de Cuerdas is the album’s simplest presentation of strings, as it is the only piece on the album to feature string orchestra by itself. Even so, this highly sectional piece demonstrates the ensemble’s considerable textural flexibility. As one might expect, the composer uses the orchestra as a conventional and singular melodic force with the accompaniment of solo violin and cello in the corresponding variations of the 2nd movement. More importantly, Tres Piezas is a work that exploits string instruments’ capacities to produce both compellingly powerful and delicate sounds.
The other works on OFF THE EDGE more commonly play to the extremes of the string orchestra’s sonic palette. This tendency is encapsulated in the first minutes of Carmen Criaturalis (1970), a concerto for horn, string orchestra, and percussion considered the beginning of "spectralism". Here, Terzian fuses the sounds of a rolling cymbal with trembling, sliding strings and the vibraphone, which give way to the solo horn’s anguished solo melody, a melody calling to mind a scream and then joining the orchestra in an emotional conclusion.
Canto a Mi Misma (1985) features an enthralling form, as well as rich, vivified string textures and is scored for string orchestra, a chorus reading the texts of 20 poems, and the tam-tam. Both thematically, and in actual performance, sound transformation is a key element of this composition. Spoken material is electronically manipulated and delayed around a performance space, an effect admirably captured in this recording. Through speaker placement and live sound manipulation, the listener perceives musical content and its ongoing transformation with a fluidity mirroring that of the material itself. While perhaps hard to visualize, the live performance of this piece utilizes a specially designed system of scattered speakers and stage microphones structured specifically by the composer for the transmission of this single composition.
Written in 1992, the album’s titular work combines strings, Chinese cymbals, choir, and bass soloist in a dramatic and expansive musical design.