WARRIOR MONKS is a collection of two clarinet concerti and a trumpet concerto by Carl Vollrath that span topics of war, solace, fascination, and reverence among many others. “And Bugles Sang” drew inspiration from the unique juxtapositions in Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” and explores the many ways the trumpet is used as a symbol throughout human history. At times the trumpet is brash and lyrical, expressing ecstasy; in other instances it is strident and rhythmic perhaps reflecting charges into battle; and yet in an instant it reappears low and mellow in what could be heard as a faux-lullaby. The virtuosity in this piece is not to be understated.
The next two concerti were inspired by a trip Vollrath took to China and his powerful impression of “a complex culture which contained an old traditional heritage with a new contemporary injection.” He expresses this fusion especially in “Land of Lanterns” in which he uses various layers of melodies to create rich harmonies and active polyphony; the moments in which the solo clarinet returns to a pure pentatonic are especially poignant.
“Dragon Land” further explores Vollrath’s time in China, approaching his experience with a heightened sense of drama. Angular clarinet melodies, quick dynamic changes, and flashes of folk melodies present vignettes that reflect a society where ancient practices and modern influences coexist, at times in discord and at times in harmony. Coincidentally, the final movement of this piece was inspired by warrior monks and became the impetus for the album.
A warrior monk is a person trained deeply in both spiritual studies and martial arts; they are engrained with a vast knowledge of their culture and entrust that heritage to the pupils they train. At the same time, they are equipped with the skills to defend it at all costs. This duality inspired Vollrath to create this collection of works, dedicated to those who strive to cultivate acceptance and respect for other cultures. Moreover, it is dedicated to the memory of those who have sacrificed their lives to do so.
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