Embers (orch. March 2014) is a large-scale orchestral work of satisfyingly dazzling impressionistic touches. The idiom is personal and lively – full of bustling energy, uneven meters and dissimilar modes of expression for the different instruments. It is a ‘tonal’ piece, although it is not at all neo-Romantic. One briefly flirts with tonal areas, yet those are barely glimpsed at before it flits out of view like sparks from a fire. It seems every turn of phrase ends somewhere else in this pyrotechnic display of orchestral color and nuance.
The most beautiful moments of the piece are the still, wailing harmonies that fleeting are dispersed with and grow into slow-motion, across a broad expanse of land. The elemental simplicity of this portrait is treated with different rhythms and cross-rhythms and dynamic guises, a device from which is borrowed from embers in a strikingly diverse multiple treatment of the same subject. It is a luci, engaging piece; delightful in its effusiveness, especially in the use of high registers in the violin writing, it has strains of abrasiveness and sustain lyrical writing that are both very sure handled.
It is terse music, focusing intently on its thematic materials and economically, with all its urgency, also as a lyrical side, conveying a sense of repose as much as it displays a sense of striving. The texture is also very airy, seemingly admitting shafts of light between its melodic lines. In that respect, it seems like a musical representation of embers and sparks drawn from earliest childhood memories of “the brightness of light” that is at the emotional heart of the music. Like a scherzo, it introduces audiences particularly searing, intense moments and its brief and frequent gripping climaxes that mark the trude dramatic core of the work.