CARL RUGGLES Evocations
American composer Carl Ruggles’s music is notable for its fiercely independent, personal idiom, which shows little sense of connection to past tradition. Despite his generous lifespan of 95 years, Ruggles left behind a body of just 12 works, destroying early ones (including an opera he left incomplete) and taking many years to wrestle such compositions as Evocations onto paper. Initially written for solo piano and finished by 1943, the Evocations feature rigorous shaping of line, rhythm, and climax that recalls a meticulous sculptor at work.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Exsultate, jubilate
Mozart began work on the motet Exsultate, jubilate in January 1773, inspired by the famous castrato Venanzio Rauzzini’s singing in the premiere of his opera Lucio Silla. The work demands much of its soloist: a full soprano range (including exposed, sustained notes at both extreme ends), wide leaps of pitch, intricate coloratura, and long-breathed legato passages. With its three movements in fast-slow-fast arrangement, beautiful melody, virtuosic display, formal ingenuity, and cheerful enthusiasm, Exsultate also points the way toward the instrumental concerto—a genre that Mozart would revolutionize and in which he would write much of his finest music.
GUSTAV MAHLER Symphony No. 4 in G Major
In his first three symphonies, Mahler had retraced the darkness-to-light pattern established by Beethoven—the symphony as a metaphysical journey and record of existential struggle. But while the Fourth does end in “paradise,” it follows a dramatically different path, beginning with an air of ironic nostalgia and ending with a sweet lullaby that evokes puzzling images of childhood. The symphony’s thematic material is subjected to an almost manic level of invention as the composer continually pokes, prods, and tweaks his thrifty fund of basic ideas. The overall effect suggests an ambivalent mix of reverence for and parody of classical tradition. And following one of his most romantically glowing slow movements, Mahler caps the Fourth with what could be taken as a send-up of Romanticism’s propensity for rhetorically grandiose conclusions.