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ClassicsOnline Home » MORAVEC: Time Gallery (The) / Protean Fantasy / Ariel Fantasy
American Record Guide
By Robert Carl
In our increasingly transnational times, Paul Moravec manages to define his own firmly grounded space amidst a
musical scene that can often feel frenetic. Moravec’s work in many ways builds upon “The Great Tradition” of
Western Europe, reconfiguring some of its bedrock gestures into an aesthetic that is thoroughly of our day. Dubbed
a “New Tonalist” by critic Terry Teachout, Moravec writes with depth but does so with a light touch. He draws on
craftsmanship so virtuosic it seems easy. All this adds up to a composer who is simultaneously learned and
accessible, tradition-based and imaginative, profound and a heck of a lot of fun. In an era when pundits worry over
the fate of the concert world as a whole, Moravec’s music—and its deep-down integrity—speak of confidence and
The Time Gallery, a chamber work in four movements, is among the latest installments in Moravec’s rapidly
growing opus. A “meditation,” as the composer puts it, on various aspects of time, whether temporal duration,
clocks, or human pulse, The Time Gallery also approaches “time” in the historical sense, glancing back to the Middle
Ages, with the pealing of bells at sunrise in a Benedictine monastery, and the Baroque, with the revered B.A.C.H.
motive. All this is refracted in the final movement, Overtime: Memory Sings, where the past is “reinvented”. Is this
the present? The future? A metaphor for Moravec’s musical style?
In lesser hands, “time” could yield a rigid construct—a vice-grip of repetition, but in The Time Gallery it
transcends the motoric. This is vital time, alternatively ruminative, mysterious, blissful, energetically propulsive.
Interestingly, in our post-9/11 era of terrorist threats, The Time Gallery speaks of optimism, embracing life. Yet it is
hard to go anywhere near the subject of “time” without contemplating the finiteness of existence. Moravec writes at
a historical moment of fear and political extremism, an era when, as a civic body, we worry that perhaps our time is
borrowed. “The paradox of time,” says the composer, “is that it is at once the creator and the destroyer of all things.
I try to make beautiful music, which, while acknowledging the tragic, ultimately celebrates the joyous and
affirmative. Time is the medium of music and love is its spirit.”
Moravec’s Protean Fantasy and Ariel Fantasy, two recent works for violin and piano, round off the disc. Both,
like The Time Gallery, have a compelling inner energy. The sumptuous Protean Fantasy begins ruminatively, then
kicks off into a virtuosic thriller. Ariel Fantasy, which passes in a dazzling blink, has motoric intensity from the getgo,
jutting at times toward the frenetic, at others toward the crystalline and cascading. It has a visceral intensity that
speaks to the listener urgently, directly.
Carol J. Oja
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