Swathmore College honored long-time faculty memeber Gerald Levinson’s 65th birthday on November 13th with a concert featuring many of his works, including Duo: Winds of Light for violin and piano, Here of Amazing Most Now for chamber ensemble, and Ringing Changes for two pianos. A highlight of the program was the world premiere of Levinson’s new solo piano piece, Chorale for Nanine, with Birds (Homage à Messiaen).
Congratulations to Stacy Garrop, who was named the winner of the 2017 Utah Arts Festival Chamber Ensemble composition competition. She has been commissioned to compose a new work for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion. The piece will receive its premiere at the June 2017 Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City.
For Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano, and Percussion
Linn Records (CKD 545); June 10, 2016
Performer(s): Maximilian Hornung, cello; Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Jose Serebrier, conductor
Work(s): Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
Symphony No. 6
These works are benchmarks of contemporary American composition: monumental in scale and embracing a wide expressive spectrum with ease and visceral power, Adler merges twenty-first century ebullience with an almost classical economy and balance.
Boston Modern Orchestra Project launched its 2016-2017 season with its “American Masters” program, featuring the music of Steven Stucky and Michael Colgrass. The October 8th concert opened with Colgrass’ imaginative work, The Schubert Birds, and closed with Steven Stucky’s Chamber Concerto, both of which garnered high praise in the Boston Music Intelligencer:
Colgrass’s imagination gave us some fine solo writing, and some vivid color, with a memorable duet between oboe and contrabassoon and a striking melody for violins, violas, and cellos in unison fortissimo, without octaves. The waltz itself fades away near the end with four solo contrabasses playing very high on their G strings, a remarkable sound that kept in tune only with difficulty. A widely-spaced, luminous string chord at the very end supported a touching gesture of flute and piccolo.
…premiered only six years ago, and it still sounds young and fresh. An abundance of expressive melody wanders through the highs and lows of orchestral sound, featuring rich differences of instrumental soli. The beginning, with widely-spaced polychordal fifths in string harmonics and vibraphone, evokes a daybreak scene. A rhythmically well-marked faster section follows with staccato woodwinds in parallel thirds; it yields to a slower section with expressive clarinet, solo violin, and solo cello, eventually much-divided strings playing soft trills with solo flute and bisbigliando harp. …Overall, the radiant orchestral sound and color most impressed in this formally adventurous concerto.
PAS DE TROIS
for Piano Trio
First Unitarian Church; Cincinnati, OH
…Pas de Trois was both engaging and sophisticated. The two movement piece began with an emphatic flourish by all players, and soon moved into a syncopated dialogue. Zwilich described her piece as inspired by the ballet, but she also was clearly inspired by the blues, with blues-inflected chords, a sensuous melody and recurring jazz licks as hallmarks of this piece.
In the second movement, entitled “Variata e Coda,” each musician took the theme, a haunting melody, I loved the sonorous chords played by Kalichstein when his colleagues took a turn. They were in perfect sync in the lively, syncopated coda. The audience approved with a warm response.
The work was commissioned by Cincinnati arts patrons Ann and Harry Santen, and a consortium of other presenters through the International Arts Foundation. There is also a substantial future life planned for Pas de Trois. It is to be played in St. Paul, the Kennedy Center, Kravis Center (West Palm Beach), Miami, Chicago, Carmel (CA), at Bard College (NY) and at the La Jolla Chamber Music Society. [read full review]
for Percussion and Cello
Davis Square Theater; Somerville, MA
The finale was a premiere, Triptych by the late Lee Hyla (the work was commissioned and written in 2009, but remained unperformed at Hyla’s 2014 death). The instrumentation was exotic: Popper-Keizer on cello, joined by Aaron Trant, playing a battery of percussion and a twanging hammered dulcimer. The first movement’s sinuous shimmer led to a brawny marimba-cello call-and-response in the second; the third movement’s opening bongo-and-pizzicato cool collapsed into dissonant, funky angles. The performance was cogent, solid, locked-in. But the music’s obsessive recombinations and oblique shifts replaced the rest of the program’s travel with a constant, immediate, and instantly-dissolving present tense. Instead of memory, it was the prompt to remember: the sheer challenge of hanging on to time as it passes. [read full review]
The first movement pairs jagged cello writing with rapid articulation and punctuation on dulcimer, conga drums, and an assortment of other percussion. The middle movement focuses on the marimba and cello, while the finale contrasts brief lyrical passages with stretches of rhythmic grooves. Overall the Tryptrich feels fragmented, always changing and backing away from glimmers of beauty. It also appears devilishly difficult for the performers, requiring an acrobatic cellist and a percussionist with rare proficiency on the dulcimer (a likely cause of the belated premiere). Trant and Popper-Keizer, however, seem to have conquered the piece, and will hopefully offer it again so that others can make their judgments of its place in Hyla’s catalogue. [read full review]
CONCERTO FOR SIMPLY GRAND PIANO AND ORCHESTRA
Jeffrey Biegel, piano
Colorado Symphony Orchestra; Christopher Dragon, conductor
Boettcher Concert Hall; Denver CO
The piano has been an instrumental part of the P.D.Q. Bach oeuvre right from the very beginning, being featured in everything from smaller solo piano works such as the Three Teeny Preludes and the Traumarei for unaccompanied piano, though chamber music including the Sonata Innamorata for piano four hands and The “Trite” Quintet, to major extravaganzas such as The Short-Tempered Clavier, Preludes and Fugues in all the major and minor keys except for the really hard ones, and the Concerto for Two Pianos vs. Orchestra.
View concert schedule
LEGENDS OF OLYMPUS
for Brass Quintet
Gaudete Brass Quintet
Ear Taxi Festival; Chicago, IL
Another in a series of Garrop works inspired by Greek mythology, Legends of Olympus is a suite in four movements, each named after a different god — Helios blazing across the heavens, Aphrodite striking courtly poses out of Renaissance paintings, Hermes cavorting in a drunken, Coplandesque scherzo, the music-god Apollo dancing to ascending triadic figures. One can imagine any number of brass ensembles wanting to add this finely crafted piece to their repertory. [read full review]
Among the highlights was Stacy Garrop’s four-part Legends of Olympus, written for Gaudete Brass. Named for the gods Aphrodite, Hermes and Apollo as well as Helios representing the sun, each of the movements had a distinctive profile. Gaudete Brass’s rich, succulent sound became smoky and mysterious in the Helios movement as the swirling, racing trajectory of the sun slowed and gradually vanished into the velvety darkness of night. [read full review]
BIRKAT HADEREKH – BLESSING FOR THE ROAD II
Version for Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Violin, Cello, Piano and Percussion
Chicago Cultural Center; Chicago, IL
The main virtue of Shulamit Ran’s carefully crafted Birkat Haderekh–performed by Latitude 49–was the patient development of a rhythmically incisive initial figure.
[read full review]
for Flute and Harp
The Sparx Duo (Joan Sparks, flute; Anne Sullivan, harp)
First And Central Presbyterian Church; Wilmington, DE
for Solo Guitar
Jordan Dodson, guitar
American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA
Having long been preoccupied with projecting musical tension, I find myself drawn to examples tension in the physical world. Recently, I was inspired by the suspension bridges that I regularly cross while traveling in and out of New York City. While on these bridges, I am struck by how the weight of the deck — which sometimes vibrates with alarming force — is transferred to the impossibly thin cables stretched above. In suspension/bridge, sustained sounds connect — or bridge — together irregular outbursts of activity, the latter full of volatile energy, the former transparent and taut.
An Opera in Five Acts
MasterVoices and Orchestra of St. Luke’s
James Robinson, director, Ted Sperling, conductor
New York City Center; New York, NY
Ultimately the essence of 27 is the deep love between Alice and Gertrude. Their love duet sung with tenderness and passion by Ms. Blythe and Ms. Stober is an example of Mr. Gordon’s melodic brilliance. And Gertrude’s final moments in the arms of her wife asking “what is the answer?” evoke the essential existentialism at the core of her writings. Exquisitely crafted musically and lyrically… [read full review]
27 is a triumph for Gordon and Vavrek and a tour-de-force for all of the performers.
[read full review]
For 27, Gordon has done something equally remarkable. The sprightly, piquant and smart interplay of themes instantly evokes the time and tone of Stein’s Paris, and does it by brilliant and intentional musicological design. [read full review]
As Light as Bird from Brier
for Soprano Saxophone and Piano
Stephen Page, saxophone; Cameron Hoffman, piano
Bates Recital Hall; Austin, TX
for Solo Piano
Mirian Conti, piano
Yamaha Artist Services; New York, NY