Nico Muhly

Mothertongue  | Brassland
By MICHAEL PATRICK BRADY  |  July 22, 2008
3.5 3.5 Stars
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Nico Muhly is too young to realize that classical music is meant to be a gated community. Although he carries a torch for New York’s downtown music, his collaborations with pop figures (like Björk and Antony) have lately given him a greater flexibility. His latest offering is divided into three suites, “Mothertongue,” “Wonders,” and “The Only One,” each of which draws from different eras of musical history and marries classical techniques with pop fragments of folk, electronic, and post-rock. The overlapping layered vocals of Abigail Fisher flow through the title track like a babbling brook — a rolling cascade of street addresses, phone numbers, names of cities and towns. “Wonders” is distinctly Old World, as Muhly illuminates Age of Exploration texts with harpsichord, bringing both the delight of discovery and the fear of the unknown into view. Singer Sam Amidon is the star of “The Only One,” coaxing maximum poignancy from fragments of an American murder ballad as the music shudders and groans around him. It’s a gorgeous performance that anchors Mothertongue with its strength and solemnity. Muhly is a perfect ambassador for a new generation of classical composers — his love of music knows no bounds or limitations.
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