Shadowtime

Be forewarned: I’m among those who know in their heart of hearts that Brain Ferneyhough is a god. Of course I’m also an atheist—who isn’t in New York City these days?—so gods aren’t necessarily infallible deities. I was the only one in the office here who missed Ferneyhough’s Shadowtime at the Lincoln Center Festival, but as luck would have it, the BBC was present to record a performance across the pond at the English National Opera. Now with the music rustling around in my headphones, for the life of me I can’t see why there was such a fuss over the very fact alone that Ferneyhough composed an opera. It sounds like a regular ol’ opera to me: high voices, lots of vibrato. Maybe a little more feisty and overdramatic than most, but wait, isn’t opera in general just a little bit over the top? Granted, most operas don’t have an extended, unruly piano solo in the middle of them performed by, according to the opera’s synopsis, a “Liberace-like singer in a Las Vegas piano bar.” Thankfully there’s no creed against writing complex music with a sense of humor.

—RN