Virko Baley -- Composer, Conductor, Writer, Educator

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Recent Works 

Baley's works took an abrupt tonal turn beginning with his Violin Concerto No. 1, quasi unappreciated fantasia (1987). Having wanted for some time to use folk figures as melodic building blocks, Baley found the opportunity in this 25-minute reflection on death for solo violin and orchestra. Shaped as a requiem in sonata-allegro form, the "Lacrymosa" serves as an exposition, the "Dies Irae" as development, the "Lux Aeterna" as recapitulation, and the first "Agon" stands apart as a festive wake. The solo part is plaintive through much of the piece, opening ip only near the end, as folk figures fly with abandon toward the cathartic wake. In the version for chamber orchestra, the Violin Concerto No. 1 resembles the mystic minimalism of Henryk Górecki and Arvo Pärt, although the work has much less actual repetition than either of those two composers. Despite its folkloric nature, tonality for Baley becomes merely and overly part of a modernist palette. 

That same lyrical feeling stretches deeper into Orpheus Singing (1994) for oboe and string quartet, a single movement instrumental work in the Italian recitative-aria-cabaletta form. True to its title, the oboe demands calls call lyrical playing, with some added spice from glissandi, double trills and harmonics. Its third section, entitled "Cabaletta-Kolomyikas," borrows a Western Ukrainian strophic song form, and the oboist must play at times with the reed entirely in the mouth, rather than on the lips, mimicking the rustic tones of double reed folk instruments. The work exists in two additional versions: for oboe and string orchestra and oboe and piano

The Duo Concertante (1971; 1990) for cello and piano, seems, in retrospect, a lending library for Baley's future violin concertos. Withdrawn in its original version, the first movement "Intrada" reappeared whole in Baley's Concerto No. 2 (1998); the second, "Aria," was totally reworked as the "Lux Aeterna" from the Concerto No. 1; and the third, "Mobile Dances," is the root of the first concerto's finale, "Agon," After writing both concertos, Baley revised the Duo in 1990 and returned it to circulation. 

With Dreamtime (1993-1995), Baley's work achieved a new level, both in its own scope and in its reworking of previous material. Written for the California E.A.R. Unit, the works 19 movements spread out overly nearly 80 minutes in a musical narrative, its series of "tales" woven together so that the outcome seems unavoidable without being obvious. Rather than using fillers or structural connections, Baley explains, "each strand of the (musical) web exists as long as it fascinated me, until I fond it to double back on itself. In other words, when I said everything I wanted to say, I stopped." There is no development as such in Dreamtime.

Dreamtime is inspired by Delmar Schwartz' 1937 short story, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities. Composer Baley writes, "What fascinated me about the story, which I first read more than 30 years ago, was Schwartz' ability to depict horrors that his imagination involuntarily revealed to him as if in a dream, a dream in full light of day. The lightness of touch, his clear and, one could almost say, classical structure reveal a tunnel of gloom that is possible to see only in the detachment of an alternate state of being." Dreamtime's 19 movements treat a variety of visions - literary, operatic, painterly, cinematic - as they appear in both the composer's wakeful and dream states. Baley cites Boccaccio's Decameron as a literary comparison, but given its recycling of material, Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales would be equally valid. Parts of the work rely on previous sources (one movement, "Adam's Apple," is a reworking of a wind quintet from 1989), and his chamber epic has spawned two shorter works, Dreamtime Suites No. 1 (1993) for clarinet, violin and piano, and Dreamtime Suites No. 2 (1996) for violin, cello and piano, each culling movements from the original and reassembling them in different contexts to offer a much different flavor. 

Two of Baley's solo collections, the Six Nocturnals for solo piano (1958-1988) and the six ...figments for solo violin (1981-1996), span the contrasting periods in Baley's output thus far, and as such provide a concise overview of the composer's development. ...figments for solo violin is now part of a collection entitled Etudes Tableaux. Projects are under way for them to be recorded by violinist Tom Chiu.

Given Baley's recent appointment as principal guest conductor for the Kiev Camerata, his future work may follow a new path, perhaps looking still further into the Ukrainian half of his hyphenated lineage. His collaborations have increasingly been looking eastward, with Yuri Illienko's film, Swan Lake: The Zone, co-produced and scored by Baley, which won two top awards at the 1990 Cannes International Film Festival; and his opera, Hunger, on a libretto by the Ukrainian-American poet Bohdan Boychuk, planned for future performance with Illienko as director. 

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