Repertoire Search

Nico Muhly

Publisher: Chester Music

Register (2017)
Co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Gustavo Dudamel, Artistic and Music Director, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Southbank Centre. Premiered on 23 February 2018 by James McVinnie (organ) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by James Conlon, at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles.
Chester Music Ltd
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
23 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Unavailable Explain this...
Programme Note
Nico Muhly Register (2017)
Register, for organ and orchestra, is one of many collaborations between me and the organist James McVinnie, one of my oldest friends. I’ve always treated the organ as an early version of the synthesizer, with additions and subtractions to the sounds creating sudden shifts of mood, or register. Like in speech, changes in tone and style can be subtle or jarring; here, the organ and orchestra work with and against one another in an animated and intimate conversation, with sudden asides and rapid shifts in tack. The piece is built around three distinct cycles of chords: one, large and ascending, with a sense of slight menace; the second, bright, descending, and brilliant; and the third, a sparkling perpetual-motion machine, in whose genetic past is a Pavane in G minor by Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625), a composer with whose music Jamie and I both enjoy a lifelong romance. Despite the power of the modern organ, the piece ends with a glance towards the Jacobean period, with strings played without vibrato, and the organ in its smallest, most understated register.

  • 29 APR 2020
    Register European Premiere
    Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, UK
    London Philharmonic Orchestra
    James McVinnie; Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor

Written for British organist James McVinnie, a longtime colleague of Muhly, Register takes its name both from the organ term "registration," for choosing the organ stops that determine the different pipes used and thus tone color, but also from the tone, or register, of speech.

This might be likened to the variety of voices you might hear on a busy urban street. One minute your attention is drawn to voices of children, then to a couple with Long Island accents, then a French tourist. For this, Muhly draws on the solo organ pieces — be they dreamy or fast, repetitive and cyclic — he's written for McVinnie. He also turns for inspiration from 17th-century British keyboard music he fancies. Finally, "Register" is an invitation to freedom; the organist is invited to select his own, thus becoming his own orchestrator.

For most of the concerto's 20 minutes, Register doesn't let you catch your breath. A sharp percussion attack sets the organ off in one manner; another attack and the orchestra suddenly changes direction. Different chord sequences go every which way. The effect is exhilarating, but the goal is something else, a quiet liberation with dulled strings and the organ mellowed. The concerto ends with what feels like the arrival in a sanctuary, where the real business is about to begin. Every New Yorker knows that miraculous momentary escape feels like.
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times,26/02/2018
McVinnie made ample use of many of the Disney Hall organ sounds but what was unexpected was how well he and the orchestra blended together. Except for the extended cadenza in between sections 2 and 3, it was often hard to tell whether McVinnie was producing the sounds or whether they came from the orchestra, which had an oversized brass section as well as numerous percussionists. That cadenza, with two extended pedal solos, gave McVinnie a real chance to shine.

Conlon conducted the orchestra carefully, attentive to the score and to his soloist. The orchestra appeared to relish playing Muhly’s music and did so with a high degree of panache. The ending, based on a Pavane in G minor by 17th-century composer Orlando Gibbons, was so mysterious that the audience didn’t quite know what to make of it. They will the next time they hear the concerto.
Robert D. Thomas, Southern California News Group,24/02/2018
Close X

Newsletter Signup

Enter your email address to keep up to date with the latest news and special offers from Music Sales Classical.
Your data is secure and you can unsubscribe at any time. Read our Privacy Policy

Click here to receive regular news
© Copyright 2019 Music Sales Classical. Part of the Music Sales Group.