Années de Lycée

Playground Ensemble


Up-and-coming classical composer Ethan Boxley makes a confident first appearance on the classical music scene with the release of his 2015 album, ‘Années de Lycée.’ The CD features a collection of eight original pieces composed by Boxley during his high school years, including string, wind, and piano quartets, as well as his most recent oboe quintet, Introspection, and a sparkling set of variations for solo violin, For Sofya. In his compositional works, Boxley explains his aim of ‘combining the rich, contrapuntal textures and devices of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the clear, memorable melodic idiom of today’s film music,’ in order to create music that is ‘as engaging and listenable as it is highly complex.’ This aim is clearly visible in the album’s first piece, Character Suite for woodwind quartet, throughout which reassuringly modal harmonies and colorful melodic lines compliment vibrant, polyphonic textures. Following this pleasing introduction, Boxley’s string quartet From Water seizes the listener’s interest with music inspired by experience of Colorado’s rivers and lakes. From its subdued, scintillating second movement to the rushing ferocity of its fugal finale, the quartet is characterized by profound, flowing melodic lines, supported by subtly interwoven counterpoint and a diverse series of musical textures.

Next is Boxley’s piano quartet, Crisis in the Hallway, whose playful opening and closing sections and contemplative, chant-like middle section are a musical response to the common crushes and crises of high school life. His subsequent oboe quintet, Introspection, uses similarly striking musical contrasts to convey the mixed feelings accompanying graduation.

His string quintet, Lunacy, represents a second and more refined foray into character music. The adventurous seven-minute work begins with a compelling fugal section and boasts three whimsical themes, all of which are finally combined at the ending in a rollicking triple fugue.

In contrast, the second string quintet in the form of a sonata and fugue is a heartfelt expression based firmly in the warm, elaborate language of the baroque style.

The series of eight works concludes with a set of variations for solo violin, whose final variation isn’t above finishing out the album with what Boxley ‘describes as a good old fashioned fiddle-tune, because why not?’