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11.5.10

'The Composer Is Dead'

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Read my review published today on the Washington Post Web site:

Charles T. Downey, NSO offers kids classical music as whodunit
Washington Post, May 11, 2010

available at Amazon
N. Stookey / L. Snicket, The Composer Is Dead
(book with recording by San Francisco Symphony)
A family concert by the National Symphony Orchestra on Sunday afternoon featured the Washington debut of Nathaniel Stookey's "The Composer Is Dead." Commissioned and premiered by the San Francisco Symphony in 2006, the work is a dark updating of more familiar children's introductions to the orchestra, with text by Lemony Snicket written as a grimly humorous detective story. The composer of the work has been murdered, and suspicion falls on the musicians on the stage: One by one, they provide musical alibis that simultaneously prove their innocence and identify the quirks of their instruments.

The strings were playing a waltz at a ball, a tune that is then deconstructed into its melodic and accompanying parts, including the self-pitying viola countermelody that no one will ever care about or hear. The dizzy flutes were imitating bird songs, and the arrogant brass were playing noisy fanfares. Along the way Stookey's inventive score has episodes in various jazz and classical idioms, including probably the only duet for tuba and harp in the orchestral repertoire, all punctuated by an ominous refrain heard whenever death is mentioned. [Continue reading]
National Symphony Orchestra Family Concert
Nathaniel Stookey and Lemony Snicket, The Composer Is Dead
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

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