Production delays on their new album certainly frustrated Nashville’s ALIAS Chamber Ensemble and Portara Ensemble, but ultimately the groups’ new album release got an apt release date: roughly 400 years after the death of the man who wrote their lyrics.
Composer Paul Moravec laughs that William Shakespeare is a sort of silent partner who has “been very good to me over the years.” Two of the three works ALIAS and Portara recorded for their album of Moravec’s music, Amorisms and Tempest Fantasy, are based on works by Shakespeare.
Moravec says he keeps returning to the bard because his work is universal and timeless, plus,“he makes us smarter as an audience.” In the case of Amorisms, which was commissioned by ALIAS, Portara, and the Nashville Ballet, Shakespeare also gave Moravec what he needed to put together a puzzle of sorts. The composer needed to write engaging music scored for both instrumentalists and a choir, which means he needed to work in words, but not so many words that it would take away from an audience’s appreciation of the ballet’s dancers and choreography. Shakespeare’s sayings about love fit the bill by being short and familiar, but also wise and thoughtful; in other words, they could hold up to repetition by the singers of Portara while still leaving room for the Nashville Ballet’s choreography to add on more interpretation.
That work was premiered by the groups last year to warm reviews; the intention was to release the album shortly afterwards. The music was ready on time; in fact, the album was recorded in 2014. Internal issues at their record label, Delos, pushed back the release date to late last week, instead.
Moravec doesn’t seem at all bothered by the delay. He’s eager to point out the connection to the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death this April. However, it’s clear he wanted to write music that stands independent of its source material. For instance, his Pulitzer Prize-winning Tempest Fantasy was written with characters, lines and scenes from Moravec’s favorite play in mind, but it’s instrumental music. “Whatever’s compelling about it has to be in the music, has to be in the notes themselves. That’s my responsibility as a composer.”
And that’s Moravec’s goal regardless of his source material. This album is rounded out by another piece for choir and chamber ensemble, a set of Sacred Love Songs based on religious texts. This spring, the Bach Festival will premiere Moravec's new choral setting of lyrics by music critic Terry Teachout. And he’s currently working to put his own spin on a horror classic for a commission from the Minnesota Opera: Steven King’s The Shining.