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Dawn Rhapsody – Review

Composer:  Matthew Orlovich – Australia
Reviewer:  Charles Higgins,  North Carolina, USA

ReviewFiveStarsExhilarating and expertly crafted

Dawn Rhapsody by Matthew Orlovich was one of the pieces that made it onto the short list. If you haven’t already, you need to listen to it. In fact, the piece is so incredible that it’s sort of intimidating to write about it. What impresses me most about Dawn Rhapsody is how both instruments are used to their full potential. Matthew Orlovich utilizes the full range of both instruments consistently. Similarly, the work features varied timbres and textures. Although the work focuses on creating a single image, it (briefly) shifts through different moods and feelings.

The opening measures are exhilarating. There is an excitement and awe in the music that immediately grabs hold of the listener. This is followed by a calmer passage that feels reflective and contemplative. It then quickly shifts into a more turbulent and unsure set of measures, until finally going back to the initial mood of the first few measures. The piece transitions through each of these settings once more before reaching the joyous and affecting final section. This diversity in tone allows for and bolsters a more subtle exploration of repeating melodic and rhythmic motifs, that aren’t as obvious on the first few listens.

The range in feelings that are expressed is complimented on a smaller scale by the variety in the way each instrument is used. The full registers of both instruments are utilized impressively and effectively. This is apparent from the very beginning. Nearly every measure of the piano part has pitches that span numerous octaves. This can be attributed to all the fast arpeggios, but I especially liked how measure 50 takes advantage of the piano’s large range. The same is true for the violin. If you look at measure 7, for example, you’ll see pitches all throughout the violin’s range. What’s important to note is that Orlovich uses the full range consistently. It isn’t difficult to have a few moments in a piece where you go outside the middle register for an instrument. What’s really impressive is using the full range of an instrument to your advantage as often as in this piece. As one final side note, I think the exceptionally high pitch that’s drawn out at the end of the piece made the ending really breathtaking.

There are many other compelling ways that both instruments are used. I especially liked the violin parts that quickly alternate between pizzicato and arco. The first instance of this is in measure 1, but you should also check out how it’s used in measure 51. It creates such an interesting sound, and it makes me want to learn more about the capabilities of the violin so I can write figures that are that fascinating. There are moments where both instruments are used percussively (measure 24, for example), usually with quick repeated notes in the violin and chord clusters in the piano. I remember this being one aspect of this piece that made it stand out from all the others initially. Of course, the violin also shines with lines that are flowing and smooth, as is mandatory when trying to show off all that a violin can do. There’s also a middle ground where the violin is mostly playing notes of shorter value, but there is still a lyrical quality to the writing (I mostly have the part that starts at measure 18 in mind). There’s no need to worry that something stays the same way for too long.

What’s most important is that you should listen to this piece for yourself. Dawn Rhapsody is an expertly crafted piece of music, and it’s well worth the 4 minutes and 38 seconds of playback.

– Charles Higgins, Composer and Student