Acclaim for Mason Bates’ “Resurrexit” in Chicago
“Conductor Honeck opened the program with the first CSO performance of “Resurrexit” by Mason Bates, whose tenure as the orchestra’s composer-in-residence ended in 2015. The work addresses the resurrection story via lush, shimmering color and intricately woven thematic layers. You didn’t have to follow the program notes to track its progress, the mystical opening pages giving way to prayerful contemplation and, finally, the dramatic stirrings of rebirth. All this unfolded in about 10 minutes, giving the work a vivid arc, expressed via virtuosic orchestral writing and performance.”
“Bates’ Resurrexit, which led off the evening, presented one of the composer’s most compelling musical efforts in years.
Dedicated to Honeck and premiered by him with the Pittsburgh Symphony last year, Resurrexit effectively melds Bates’s populist style with the deeper spiritual inspiration of Christ’s resurrection. Following an opening quick upward flourish by the large orchestral forces, the music segues into a dark and searching section for woodwinds evoking a distinctly Middle Eastern atmosphere. A lamenting bass trombone solo—rendered by Charlie Vernon with rich tone and suffused feeling—reflects upon Christ’s death.
An Easter chant presents a more animated and optimistic section with the tempo accelerating amid copious, increasingly brilliant effects by the huge percussion battery. (Bates’ taste in exotic instrumentation is reflected in his use of the suspended “semantron”—which looked to be a large suspended wooden board, but what do I know?). As the music grows in confidence and affirmation, the Easter hymn takes flight in soaring resplendence over the whirling strings and percussion leading to a triumphant coda.
Honeck showed himself just as commanding in this Mason Bates work as in his previous local outings of Mozart, Beethoven and Mahler. The final section of Resurrexit was thrilling as much for Honeck’s balancing as for the energy and commitment of the playing—all of the orchestra sections and the kaleidoscopic array of percussion colors and timbres emerged with astounding clarity.”
Chicago Classical Review