Serenada Schizophrana/Elfman

October 4, 2006


Looking up the words in my dictionary for the fascinating title of this concert work there were of course no such words. The closest match was Serenade Schizophrenia. A serenade is between a suite and a symphony and consists of several movements. This work has (7) so that fits pretty good. Schizophrenia has to do with disorganization and this serenade certainly fits the bill in that category and then some! While this work was originally written as a commission from the American Composers Orchestra and subsequently premiered in Carnegie Hall on February 23rd 2005, it has also been used as a soundtrack for the IMAX Deep Sea 3D film. Let me put it this way: There is no adagio, allegro, scherzo, and andante thus the title of being disorganized. Each of the movements could stand on its own merit and offers an individual style of music. Liken it if you want to different kinds of tracks in a film but little common thread of any sort between them.

The first movement “Pianos” begins like a typical Glass work with the rhythmic pounding of the (3) pianos but shifts quickly enough into some dissonant material followed by the beginning sound of a piano concerto. The material however will be left somewhat undeveloped but with the pianos, brass including tuba, a little bit of sax, and percussion the movement comes out well. It ends how it began with rhythm pounding of the pianos. “Blue Strings” is a slower movement in fact pretty much somber with strains of Herrmann. Much of it is written in a more chamber style, somewhat reflective. “A Brass Thing” gives the brass the spotlight with a nice theme which is allowed to develop fully. Elfman offers a tango like beginning, then brass in a jazz style, a nice little spotlight to the saxophone. The flute gets the solo with accompaniment from the harp to complete the movement. “The Quadruped (four legged animal) Patrol” is another pulse pounding movement with the addition of the female chorus without words. A lot of repetition is the signature for this movement and Glass who Elfman says has had influence on him is prevelant again. “I Forget” is a beautiful well written melody performed in Spanish by the female chorus. This very easily could have come from an opera or musical. “Bells and Whistles” is yet another completely different style from the first five movements. Beginning rather quietly with percussion it builds including the pianos again and coming to a rousing conclusion and ends with almost silence. The “End Tag” is quite short and liken it to a very short encore as it is less than a minute in length and is a reprise of the “Quadruped Patrol” theme. The “Improv for Alto Sax” is a bit of a puzzle. Likely it could have been a movement and perhaps was at one point but it is merely considered a bonus track for this CD. It is a nice uncomplicated solo for alto saxophone

Caution! This is a score that you are going to have to give more than one listen to or it might just end up in the stack of one and done cd’s. My initial reaction to this was Elfman has little business trying to write a classical piece. He is not trained and doesn’t know what he is doing! That was the first listen. After about the 6th time the evaluation completely changed. He does know what he is doing and being self taught gives him no disadvantage at all. Elfman listeners need to get this right away. Classical lovers will appreciate a new approach to concert music. Keep in mind this is a soundtrack too, and a pretty darn good one. But allow yourself to learn to appreciate it. The Steve Bartek orchestrations are superb. There were a couple of spots where there was a little white noise in some very quiet passages but nothing to concern yourself with. Not sure if it is in the master or just on my review copy. Always appreciate the note from the composer section as it helps to explain things a bit. Recommended.


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