ROBERT RAINES: THE RETURN OF ODYSSEUS
MORAVIAN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
World Premiere Recordings
"[All] the compositions here...are well-written... they do reveal an individual voice. I like best [The Return of Odysseus'] gritty view of ancient Greece. This isn't storybook stuff – noir, rather than Disney.
The performers are fine. The piano trio gives a reading full of rhythmic vim, and the Moravian Philharmonic has electrifying moments in the ballet."
Steve Schwartz, ClassicalNet - December 2011
"The balletic nature of [The Return of Odysseus] is everywhere apparent, sometimes intriguingly so (the shady nature of the 'Dance of the suitors,' for example). The music for 'The Cyclops' is graphically ominous in its snaking melodic contours and generally low pitch, while the ethereal 'Song of the Sirens,' generally high and seductive, acts as good contrast. If some of the utterances seem filmic and occasionally heart-on-sleeve, that is not necessarily a bad thing in the context of an unfolding narrative such as this. Blues inflects some of the lines of 'The Kingdom of the Dead,' which also includes some of the most dissonant music of the entire score. Primal rhythms generate the tension in 'The Return of Odysseus.' All credit to the Moravian Philharmonic and their conductor Vít Micka, who have clearly spent much time in preparation for this recording... The remaining items exhibit similar thoroughness. Echoes of Sarah...is touching in its evident sense of yearning. The performance is disciplined and strong."
Colin Clarke, Fanfare - July / August 2009
"The remarkable thing about Raines' music is not so much that it is technically intricate, which we might have expected, but that it also has the power to move the listener emotionally…dramatic and evocative, but highly economic writing. Keep this premiere offering in your CD collection and treasure it. I have the feeling we will be hearing much from Robert Raines in the future."
Fanfare - March / April 2009
"the music is never monotonous or wearying; the varying moods are sweetly poetical… The unique methods of playing give this ensemble of equal instruments a veritable orchestral or even choral heft."
Classiqueinfo-Disque - April 2009
"Echoes for Sarah is a poignant and moving fantasy for nine flutes [that] takes us through a range of emotions and uses the colours of the different members of the flute family to good effect. With a duration of nearly 12 minutes, there is the potential for the flute ensemble sound to become stale, but this does not happen here; the work constantly evolves and eventually breaks down into haunting vocal sounds before the end of the piece. The playing here is good, especially for a live performance of University students... Ménage immediately hints at Raines’ diverse background as a composer and musician. The playing here, by Deanna Bertsche (flute), Erin Douglas (bass clarinet) and Jose Belvia (piano) is excellent... The Return of Odysseus has drama running all the way through it. The orchestration is rich and imaginative, and the rhythmic writing has resonances of Stravinsky without ever becoming predictable or generic...the music is creative, expressive and extremely enjoyable. Raines’ plentiful influences create a rich tapestry of sound which never stays still and has the sense of a modern day spectacle...This is a captivating and well-executed performance by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra which serves as the perfect introduction to Raines’ work... Raines is clearly a composer with a considerable talent and imagination. His music would sit well within a programme of contemporary works or as film music or anywhere in between, such is the breadth of his appeal. There is a life-force behind his music which involves the listener and keeps the material fresh; it is rare that I can listen to a 30 minute piece of music without my mind drifting at some point, but Raines held my attention and made me want to listen again. That, surely, is a good sign. "
Carla Rees, MusicWeb International - April 2009
"[Raines'] disc opens with a heartfelt tribute written in memory of a fellow staffer at the offices of Rolling Stone who had died young, Echoes of Sarah (2007). It is scored very effectively for nine flutes, and in emotional content both deals with the issue of personal loss and carries its subject's spirit up to the clouds, utilizing spinning polyphonic lines scored among the flutes to lift the music off into the air. Ménage (2005) is a trio for the unusual combination of flute, bass clarinet and piano; its outer movements are tart and jazzy, whereas the inner one is an attractive, intermezzo-styled piece reminiscent a little of Poulenc, not surprising as Raines has orchestrated some of Poulenc's music, but enjoyable nonetheless and a good balance for the other movements... However, the pièce de resistance here is Raines' ballet The Return of Odysseus. Its rhythmic profile may remind some of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring but it is not imitative of that work and, moreover, is expertly scored and very well suited for choreography. With repeated listens, The Return of Odysseus really grows on you; some of its motifs and melodies stick in your head, while the rest of it retains its freshness and sense of surprise. Raines' music is communicative without being compromised... it never wears out its welcome... The performances, by the Moravian Philharmonic and others, are dedicated and all render a tangible consensus of excitement and enthusiasm on the part of the players."
Uncle Dave Lewis, All Music Guide - April 2009
"When I termed this offering of three world premieres by American composer Robert Raines 'intriguing,' it wasn't a left-handed compliment. Raines, a Greenwich Village native, who spent years in New York City learning his craft as a guitarist and studio musician, has a background in jazz, blues and popular music. His formal education includes a Master's from Shenandoah Conservatory, where he studied with William Averitt, and a Doctorate in composition from Florida State University . He credits Averitt and Czech-born composer Ladislav Kubik as having 'taught me most of what I know about writing music.'
I prefaced this review with the short note on Raines' background by way of illustrating one route by which a modern composer can learn his craft thoroughly. The remarkable thing about Raines' music is not so much that it is technically intricate, which we might have expected, but that it also has the power to move the listener emotionally.
The two characteristics are inseparable in a work such as Echoes of Sarah (2007) which Raines dedicates to the memory of a fellow musician who died before her time of a rare blood disease. Performed by nine flutists (one piccolo, 5 standard flutes, 2 altos and one bass), the texture is deliberately intricate as the composer explores extremes of range, tone, texture, and tempo, beginning and ending with dense vertical clusters. But something else is going on here. Though Raines provides no program, the course of this 11-minute work seems to me to parallel that of a human life: tentative reaching-out in exploration at the beginning, followed by struggle, conflict, and gratifying moments of triumph such as we all have, then frantically increasing tempi and a sense of urgency, as of someone keenly aware of the terrible brevity of life. Next we have an eerie section in which we hear only the sounds of labored suspiration (probably the result of the performers blowing streams of air without pressing the keys), and then a final brief flourish of tone clusters at the end.
Menage (2005),a trio in three movements for flute, piano and bass clarinet, explores the relationships between these three instruments, each with its own distinctive timbre, in solo, duet and trio settings. But again, though Raines is quite explicit that the work is abstract and non-programmatic, the music explores a range of emotions: love and hate, sadness and joy, conflict and its resolution. The movements are marked only l, ll, and lll, but seem to correspond to a traditional fast-slow-fast pattern. The second movement was for me the most satisfying.
The major work on the program is The Return of Ulysses (2007), a 30-minute ballet in three acts and seven scenes based on Homer's Odyssey. The outline is as follows: Act I: Athena Visits Athens; Dance of the Suitors . Act ll: The Cyclops; The Sirens; The Kingdom of the Dead. Act lll: The Return of Odysseus; The Rooted Bed. The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Vit Micka provides more than capable support, including the high level of individual musicianship that Raines requires in his many solos and passages for families of instruments. The writing is expressive and dramatic, showing Raines' well developed instinct for using the right instrumental combination at the right moment. The Suitors, spoilers of Odysseus' wealth who dishonor his wife Penelope by their unwelcome presence and importunate demands that she marry one of them, are subtly characterized by music that illustrates their arrogance and excess. The Cyclops builds in mystery and intensity, making highly effective use of the brass at the climactic moment. The denizens of The Kingdom of the Dead are more than just pitiable shades: being dead, they are envious of the living and desirous of imprisoning them in their own realm; Raines' robust orchestration gives them a palpable enough presence to be really menacing to his hero. The Return of Odysseus is climaxed by a truly thrilling description of the battle in which the hero slays the Suitors; the music ranges back and forth as in a real battle, with sensationally scintillating writing for the strings. The Rooted Bed concludes the story: Penelope is able to satisfy Odysseus' doubts as to her fidelity by answering his query: 'Who has moved my bed?' The bed, which was the marriage bed of Penelope and Odysseus, cannot be moved any more than the perfect union of man and woman can be shaken, for its frame is the trunk of a massive tree, its bedposts the branches.
Since this is a new work, we can foresee the composer making changes to it with the passage of time as it benefits from changes in choreography and repeated performances, much the same as happened to Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. My initial impression is that the scenario is still too sketchy (an irony, as Raines attests that he edited the final version we have here from his original three-hour design) and could be expanded into a full evening's ballet along lines which the composer himself has already indicated: 'Fear, courage, lust, love, life and death … Odysseus returns home and renews his love for his wife.'
The well-balanced recordings capture all the elements in Raines' dramatic and evocative, but highly economic writing. Keep this premiere offering in your CD collection and treasure it. I have the feeling we will be hearing much from Robert Raines in the future."
Atlanta Audio Society - March 2009
Parallel careers in music and visual arts followed his early education. His experience includes working for a number of years as a guitarist and composer in New York City , during which time he produced and performed on many recordings and performances of jazz, blues and popular music. He has also composed a sizeable body of art music and electronic compositions, and has toured the United States and Europe . During the same period, he achieved professional success in his career as a visual artist, including executive positions at America Online and Time Magazine.
Robert Raines’ music has been performed and recorded throughout the United States , Europe and Japan .
For more information, visit www.rainesmusic.com
* * *
Vít Micka has many years of experience conducting, including the Moravian Philharmonic and the Pilsen Radio Orchestra. He has conducted in Canada , Cuba , Turkey , Spain , Italy , and the United States . He teaches at the Prague Academy of Music and has given master classes in conducting in Europe the United States.
THE RETURN OF ODYSSEUS
Complete Ballet (2007)
ECHOES OF SARAH
A Fantasy in One Movement for Nine Flutes (2007)
Trio for Flute, Bass Clarinet & Piano (2005)
For more information, visit www.rainesmusic.com