Osvaldo Golijov
Bio - PhotosCalendarWorksDiscographyNews - ReviewsContact
 Soloists, Chorus and OrchestraOperaFilm SoundtrackSolo InstrumentalArrangements
Chamber without VoiceChamber with VoiceOrchestraSoloist and OrchestraChorus

Rose of the Winds (2007): Reviews
   [Notes] · [Reviews]
What do Gustavo Dudamel, the Silk Road Ensemble and Osvaldo Golijov have in common? All appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra within the last nine days. All bring unique cultural perspectives from far-flung points on the globe. All are invigorating modern American musical life rather like European émigrés such as Vladimir Horowitz, Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg did during the last century. No sooner had Orchestra Hall said goodbye to Dudamel than it welcomed back cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his world music group, who on Thursday night launched the first concert of a two-week residency marking the culmination of Silk Road Chicago, their yearlong, citywide adventure in cross-cultural dialogue, discovery and barrier-shattering. The centerpiece of Thursday's joyously eclectic program was the world premiere of resident composer Golijov's "Rose of the Winds," a CSO commission. In its bold yet seamless melding of musical resonances from Christian, Arabic and Jewish traditions and ear-catching instrumental sounds and colors representing numerous points of the compass, Golijov's 20-minute piece sums up what the rest of the concert, and indeed Ma's globally connected group, stands for. The four movements comprise a Christian Arab Easter song, a Mexican prayer to the holy mother, a protest song from feudal Sardinia and an incantation capped off by the mighty wail of 10 shofars (the ram's horn blown during Jewish high holiday services) played by the bulk of the CSO brass section.I won't soon forget the sight of a green-wigged bagpiper and a sheng (mouth organ) player gyrating to their own piercing sounds. Like so much of Golijov's music, "Rose of the Winds" is both a terrific piece and a crowd-pleaser. The CSO players and Silk Road group under conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya made it rock the auditorium.

—John von Rhein , Chicago Tribune

Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown

Under the guise of the hands-across-the-sea multicultural lovefest that is Silk Road Chicago, the Chicago Symphony presented a concert of 20th and 21st century music, much of it looking back to China and Chinese traditions, to an overwhelmingly appreciative audience last night. Anything that is presented as deserving fear, or as difficult, is immediately radioactive in the minds of conservative listeners, and the public at large. With Yo-Yo Ma, who radiates good cheer, modesty and friendliness, serving as spokesman, however, the implicit urge to run for the exits harbored by most older listeners drops away.

The premiere of Osvaldo Golijov's Rose of the Winds shared pride of place as the evening's highlight with Lou Harrison's Pipa Concerto, with Wu Man. (The title refers to a compass like the one at the left, which points in all directions.) Golijov's moving piece recasts two songs from Ayre and two earlier works, Tekyah and K'in Sventa Ch'ul Me'tik Kwadalupe, for orchestra and the Silk Road Ensemble. (That work, for string quartet and sampled murmurings, makes a guest appearance in Ainadamar, too.) Given the speed with which Ayre burned through the classical world in 2005, this new version ought to introduce it to a larger audience, the orchestra crowd that might have missed it the first time around.

"Wah Habibi," Ayre's third song, is now Rose's first and a feature for Kayhan Kalhor's kemancheh. Kalhor rivals Dawn Upshaw in expressivity, with all the tragedy of the Christian Arab text coming through audibly. The simple plaint stands in even starker contrast to the orchestral busyness (not business) on either side of it than does the vocal in the chamber version.

K'in Sventa Ch'ul Me'tik Kwadalupe separates the two Ayre songs, and Golijov simply lets the strings take up the original quartet, and the marimba-players play what they would, while adding a shakuhachi and flute. The violence of "Tancas Serradas a Muru" that was such a shock to the system when first listening to Ayre carries even more destructive force with the addition of orchestral woodwinds and brass. Set an orchestra's trumpet section, particularly this one's, loose on the searing, feria-style blasts and you are reminded that no amount of electronics surpasses a symphony orchestra at full throttle.

Rose of the Winds closes with Tekyah, a movement of surpassing tenderness. This, too, is an adapted earlier work; the original was for klezmer clarinet and brass. Golijov turns the solo duties over to kemancheh, and it concludes over a drone in the strings and clarinets with 10 brass players blowing on shofars. Principal horn Dale Clevenger was first to stand with the long ram's horn in hand, and led the ever-broadening calls from the middle of the stage. John Corigliano's First Symphony closes with muted brass forming shimmering, ethereal chords that ultimately dissolve, and the benedictory effect is similar here. (The Corigliano symphony was also written for the CSO.)

Golijov has a history of reorchestrating his chamber works, with some of them being more successful than others. This is one of the successes. Far more than a simple update of earlier works, he has updated the emotional content, as well, and given us a snapshot of where he stands as a composer today.

— Marc Geelhoed,