Lawrence Dillon@Sequenza21.com

"There are no two points so distant from one another that they cannot be connected by a single straight line -- and an infinite number of curves."

Composer Lawrence Dillon has produced an extensive body of work, from brief solo pieces to a full-length opera. Three disks of his music are due out in 2010 on the Bridge, Albany and Naxos labels. In the past year, he has had commissions from the Emerson String Quartet, the Cassatt String Quartet, the Mansfield Symphony, the Boise Philharmonic, the Salt Lake City Symphony, the Ravinia Festival, the Daedalus String Quartet, the Kenan Institute for the Arts, the University of Utah and the Idyllwild Symphony Orchestra.

Although he lost 50% of his hearing in a childhood illness, Dillon began composing as soon as he started piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1985, he became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at The Juilliard School, and was shortly thereafter appointed to the Juilliard faculty. Dillon is now Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served as Music Director of the Contemporary Ensemble, Assistant Dean of Performance, and Interim Dean of the School of Music. He was the Featured American Composer in the February 2006 issue of Chamber Music magazine.


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Monday, November 14, 2005
Keeping Score

Caught two new music concerts this week. Well, actually, neither of them was billed or thought of as a new music concert, and yet both of them were.

Heard clarinetist Igor Begelman perform with his long-time collaborator Tatiana Goncharova on Saturday night. Anyone who has heard him play should now expect a long line of superlatives Ė there really isnít anyone who can do more with that instrument. He is a consummate virtuoso, not just in the number of notes he can pack into one hour of music (which is more than most clarinetists play in a week) but in his ability to instantly adjust his sound and the character of his playing in response to an immense range of styles.

The concert opened with Lutoslawskiís Dance Preludes, a set of charming compositions based on Polish folk dances. Iím finding that I appreciate Lutoslawski most in his least monumental works. Another highlight was the premiere of David Winklerís Begelmania, a virtuosic showpiece well-tailored for the instrument and the instrumentalist, including a polyphonic passage of nasty low trills pocked by pristine melody notes in the top register.

But my favorite piece of the evening was the North Carolina premiere of Alexander Krasotovís Rhapsody on Hebrew Themes. Krasotov is a Ukrainian composer I havenít heard before, and he seems to be ungooglable, but heís someone Iíd like to hear more of. Apparently he teaches at the Odessa Conservatory and wrote this piece around 1990. The title didnít promise much Ė I canít normally get very excited over yet another virtuosic medley Ė but it was potent stuff, very surprising and engrossing.

The other concert (which I had to leave at intermission to put out an administrative fire) was a performance by the NC School of the Arts Percussion Ensembles. All of the music was from the last 35 years, including two parts of a 1974 James Tenney triptych: Crystal Canon for Edgard Varese and Wake for Charles Ives. The third part of the triptych Ė Hocket for Henry Cowell Ė will be played here in February.

These pieces afford a snapshot of minimalism in the pervasive form it took in the early 1970s: composer sets a process in motion, then adopts a Voltairish perspective, standing back and watching the music unfold. It was a time when minimalism was still under the powerful influence of Cage, with his interest in limiting the composerís impact on how the music sounds. Crystal Canon treats the main theme of Ionisation to a four-part canon for snare drums. The canonic writing is strict, the piece unfolds without any surprises, and concludes without much fanfare. The music manages, like much minimalism of the time, to be both ultra-rational and anti-intellectual.

Wake is for four toms, beginning with a very long, simple solo that is simultaneously rigid and curiously plaintive. As the other drums enter one by one, we are treated to a dirge of sorts, which is all the more solemn for being completely unembellished.

***

Iíve been struck by how much recent music Iíve been hearing live lately, so I tabulated the works that have been performed here so far this season by century, with some interesting results:

Eleven performances in five weeks: six faculty concerts, three student ensemble concerts, two guest artist concerts. The number of works per century score as follows:

18th century: 8
19th century: 9
20th century: 26
21st century: 6

The twenty-first century seems grossly over-represented, considering the other centuries were twenty times longer.

Or, another way to look at it: Smallish city, conservatory trained musicians Ė looks like itís time to start complaining about the stranglehold 20th-century music has on the repertoire.