Michael Boder, COATES: Symphony No. 15 / Cantata da Requiem / Transitions

Amelia Raitt

By Amelia Raitt

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Gloria Coates is modern music's most prolific female composer. This release, containing her 15th symphony and two early works, showcases many of the elements that have made Coates such a singular voice in the 20th century symphonic landscape. Listen to the second movement of the 15th, for example, and you'll hear Coates quote Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus" (the entire symphony is subtitled "Homage to Mozart"). In that same piece, you'll also hear the unbelievable effect of numerous glissandos played at once. Taken out of context, the mass sounds like a turntable slowly dying, struggling to eek out notes before the motor stops. It's an unsettling and emotional symphony, one that takes many cues from Coates earlier piece, "Transitions" — also included here. On "Transitions," however, the piece is stripped down to a chamber piece. Gone is the overwhelming dread of chorused tones. Here, it is replaced by open spaces and lonely soloists striking out on their own, as though the music isn't quite sure of how it feels or what it's trying to say. This, of course, is its strength and what makes Coates such a unique composer.