Greetings readers! Many thanks for coming to visit my O blog in my August Alphabet Challenge! Now O is a fairly tricky letter for this challenge, and my list was quite short as to who I could choose from. The obvious choices are, of course, either Orff or Offenbach, but you know, I really wasn’t feeling either of these composers today. So I did a bit of digging and research and I stumbled across the modern composer, Tarik O’Regan. I really liked his orchestral piece Latent Manifest, so that is what today’s blog will be on! I hope you can revel in the delights that this composer has to offer!

Tarik O’Regan was born in Croydon, London in 1978 and his mother was Algerian, so in his very early life he spent a lot of time abroad. O’Regan claims he was a “late starter” with music, only picking up music when he was 14. However, he seemed to find his feet very quickly as he then claimed a place at the highly prestigious Pembroke College at Oxford University. He studied music here and then specialised in composition after receiving private lessons with Jeremy Dale Roberts. O’Regan graduated from Oxford University in 1999 and he began his music career as a classical recordings reviewer for The Observer newspaper. O’Regan began his postgraduate degree in composition at Cambridge, where he was then appointed Composer in Residence at the Corpus Chisti College in 2000.

O’Regan then started his very fruitful career in composition from this point onwards. He worked with the London Sinfonietta when they premiered his work Clichés. He then worked with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, who subsequently premiered his work The Pure Good of Theory. O’Regan then made a his move across the pond to New York City, where he took up a fellowship at Columbia University and then Harvard. During the years 2002-2008 O’Regan had much success with his compositions, as two had won him British Composer Awards. He began being a composer in demand and Trinity College Cambridge offered him a position as  ‘Fellow Commoner in the Creative Arts.’ O’Regan began splitting his time between the USA and the UK and he held his place at Cambridge until 2009. O’Regan began to be more popular after his album, Threshold of Night. He worked extensively with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for his BBC Proms debut with his orchestral work, Latent Manifest. Since then he has written his most popular work, a chamber opera in one-act entitled, Heart of Darkness. 

O’Regan’s musical influences are intriguing because he takes aspects from a range of different types of music to create his own. He states that these five influences are the most dominant in his work:

  1. Renaissance Vocal Writing
  2. The Music of North Africa
  3. British Rock Bands of the 1960’s and 1970’s
  4. Jazz
  5. Minimalist Music

His influences can be heard in a variety of combinations throughout his catalogue of works, which includes Latent Manifest (2010). There is one other thing that inspires O’Regan, and that is the works of J.S. Bach. Latent Manifest is essentially a transcription of imitations that can be found in the Adagio movement of Bach’s Sonata No.3 for Solo Violin in C major BWV 1005. O’Regan takes these imitations and creates a wonderful piece for orchestra, which emphasises his use of extended tonal languages and complicated rhythmic effects. It has been suggested that this work by Bach lies in allusion – because nearly all the rhythmic and melodic ideas are not written down. This alludes to the idea that the compositional interest is actually between the notes, which creates a variation of patterns for the listener. O’Regan states in his programme notes that:

“Thus, whilst a direct transcription of the notes on the page of Bach’s C Major Adagio magnified for orchestra is possible, it would account for much less than half of the musical experience when compared to hearing a performance of the original solo work. Instead, Latent Manifest expands “the other half” – the experience of implication.”

He further goes on to say in his programme notes that:

“As an exploration of Bach’s hidden harmonies and textures, from a single line which opens the piece to a hinting at the myriad layering of performative difference, I try – in this orchestral piece – to present my own evidence of Bach’s compositional intent in his work for solo violin.”

So with the ideas of allusion vs implication, we shall now delve into this piece, which runs for a duration of around 7 minutes.

The work begins quietly, with a solo violin playing a solo variation of the theme. The xylophone and harp join to accompany the solo violin. A wave of sound from the whole orchestra come in and quickly drop out again to make room for the solo violin. The orchestra grow, and the horns play a wonderful variation of the theme. The celeste and double basses play a polyphonic melody line, which is soon accompanied by syncopated strings. There is a real drive to this next section, like it has a purpose to go somewhere, and that it does! A faster section begins, led by the upper strings and winds. The celeste plays a large role throughout this whole piece, so listen out for that!

The quick passage work played by the strings acts as an accompaniment to the solo horn, which creates a wonderful texture. The same happens with the solo trumpet, which we soon hear interludes from the harp and celeste. The trumpets enter again, this time muted to create a different texture effect. A strong dissonant chord from the brass proclaim the next section which is incredibly grand and fulfilling. The texture and dynamic drops to only a few instruments within the orchestra, and this new atmosphere is somewhat mysterious. The harp and xylophone have a melodic line, whilst the strings play a rather static phrase. This leads the solo violin back in, with a partner this time (who is sitting at the top of the stage). The two play in a question and answer format, in incredibly high ranges, which creates harmonics. The harp plays a scalic line, and the piece dies off with the upper strings playing the tonic chord.

O’Regan’s use of timbres and textures, alongside the variation of themes creates a wonderfully poignant piece, which radiates the work of Bach, whilst still emphasising the unique talents of O’Regan. I am really glad I have found this piece and this composer, as I have really enjoyed writing this blog and listening to this modern-day composer. I hope you can all appreciate this piece – it’s very clever indeed! Tomorrow is day P in my August Alphabet Challenge and I can already promise you its going to be an absolute corker of a composer/work – so don’t miss out!

Happy Reading!

Image Source

Recommended Recordings:

This is the recording from the 2010 BBC Proms with the Royal Philharmonic Playing

Here is the original Bach Sonata No.3 in C major for Solo Violin 

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