TODMORDEN 513 is a magical piece of music requiring intense concentration and endurance from performers, who must sustain long pitches, continually adjust intonation and keep track of their place in a score where all the parts are independent of each other. Originally a partly electronic arrangement, American composer/conductor Thomas Blomster’s recent orchestration uses a large orchestra with a host of percussion, including a wind machine, chimes, huge sleigh bells, and a large contingent of wind instruments along with strings. This orchestration brings out the melodic dimension of the piece as it is passed from instrument to instrument in ever-changing colors, reminding one strongly of the “Klangfarbenmelodie” techniques of Berg and Webern early in the 20th century. Reuter’s use of a self-created algorithmic compositional technique follows in the long lineage of German musical organization from Bach through Beethoven, Brahms and Schoenberg is also strongly reminiscent of the highly serialized compositions of Karlheinz Stockhausen, though Reuter stresses that TODMORDEN 513 is not a serial work. Stockhausen was a student of Olivier Messiaen, whom Reuter also claims as a musical influence. I was honored to participate in a recent reading rehearsal of the new orchestration by the Colorado Chamber Orchestra, during which the players began hesitantly, counting and tense, but gradually the magic and beauty of the colors and shifting intensity of the texture welled up within the orchestra, and almost as one player, we began to be transported by the music to an altogether different level of experience. After the last note of the piece sounded, we all sat in stunned silence for a few moments before applause broke out honoring the composer, conductor, and our own creative work in producing the first realization of an important new composition. This highly tonal and sensual, one might almost dare to say “romantic” work is a wonderful addition to the contemporary orchestral repertoire, and deserves wide hearing.
Dr. Mary C. Jungerman