Spooky music represents local composer's childhood fears - Albuquerque Journal

Spooky music represents local composer’s childhood fears

The Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra will premiere composer Michael Bowen’s “Nocturnal Mysteries.”
The Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra will premiere composer Michael Bowen’s “Nocturnal Mysteries.”

The Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra will haunt audiences in a dark forest swirling with beasts, ghosts and goblins next weekend.

The spooky music represents the premiere of local composer/conductor Michael Bowen’s “Nocturnal Mysteries.”

The piece began 10 years ago as a symphony, Bowen said. As he shopped it around to orchestras, “several conductors flipped out over the third movement and said it was strong enough to stand on its own,” he said. “I was envisioning it kind of as a ballet. I just haven’t approached any ballet companies.”

The work features reflections on Bowen’s Mississippi childhood.

“We lived next to a forest,” he said. “When it got darker … you know the imagination of children.”

The music contains playful dissonances and rhythms similar to the theme of Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas.”

The program also features violin soloist and APO conductor David Felberg on Prokofieff’s Violin Concerto in D.

“It’s like a mix between old Russian (Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff), then it introduces a whole lot of new techniques and harmonies that are distinctly Prokofieff,” Felberg said. “It’s full of incredible hyper-romantic melodies as well as feats of violin athleticism. It’s the first time I’ve played it.”

Post-intermission, the orchestra will play the Adagio movement from Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2.

“I think it’s one of the most gorgeous pieces ever written,” Bowen said.

A known depressive, the composer sought out a psychiatrist for help after critics panned his first symphony. The doctor’s advice would prove prophetic.

“The psychiatrist told him under hypnosis, ‘You are going to write some beautiful music,'” Bowen said.

Stravinsky’s notoriously complex Firebird Suite will close the program.

“This is such a difficult piece,” Bowen said. “I think the audience is going to be quite impressed. David Felberg has tremendously grown the orchestra. Somebody said this is the best free entertainment in Albuquerque.”


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