by Martin Bresnick
So Percussion; Lisa Moore, piano
Cantaloupe Music CD
It takes chutzpah to base a musical composition around an iconic piece of visual art. Francisco Goya’s Los Destastres de la Guerra (“The Disasters of War”) is a book of etchings that captures the human toll of combat (as well as its toll on the rest of creation) with a visceral impact that has seldom been equaled. Using it as the basis for a musical piece, even going so far as to use Goya’s own phrases for movement titles? A composer who does so better bring the goods or they will likely be dwarfed by comparison. Fortunately, Martin Bresnick’s Caprichos Enfaticos is eminently capable of complementing its powerful source material. Indeed, it’s one of his most affecting pieces to date, one in which there is a fluid progression from traditionally inspired material to more dissonant and abstract expression.
A particular reference point is a chain dance that originated in Provence, called the farandula, or farandole. Its 6/8 phrases are juxtaposed with bellicose marches played on snare drums and interspersed with ruminative and achingly piteous interludes for piano and pitched percussion.
Cast in eight movements, the piece mirrors the trajectory of Goya’s etchings from a semblance of order and civilization to chthonic brutality. In successive iterations, the gestural language of the farandole and folk-like thematic material is overwhelmed by a noisier environment: populated with a diverse battery of percussion instruments and a correspondingly chaotic phraseology.
In live performances, Caprichos Enfaticos is accompanied by video projections created by Johanna Bresnick and based on the Goya works. So Percussion and pianist Lisa Moore inhabit the music with a persuasive, commanding, and detailed performance on record: one can only imagine its powerful impact coupled with Goya’s artworks in a live setting.
Not only was chutzpah an ingredient of this project, but so was a seamless collaborative spirit. Meet the Composer commissioned this piece for So Percussion and Moore, and it is a truly inspired partnership. One hopes that it is merely the beginning of a long musical relationship.