Since Christian Carey’s wonderful post on June in Buffalo sounded so enticing, I figured it was time I see what all the hubbub was about. From getting there just in time to hear the first piece on the afternoon’s concert to eating wings with many of the participants at the Tap Room to thoroughly enjoying the evening concert to literally closing the seemingly popular Tap Room with the Meridian Arts Ensemble…methinks I got a good taste of it.
The overall structure of each day during the festival seems to be a lecture by one of the guest faculty, followed by workshops between the faculty and the participants, then an afternoon concert by one of the guest ensembles performing works by the participants, and ending with an evening concert by another guest ensemble which includes works by one or more of the guest faculty.
Yesterday’s afternoon concert had the New York New Music Ensemble putting six participant works through their paces and the result was a straightforward demonstration of avant-garde techniques and concepts. Prepared piano, bass clarinet multiphonics, percussionists dancing wildly from one instrument to the next, overblown alto flutes…you want ‘em, they got ‘em…yet, curiously, the two instruments who didn’t get much showcasing were the violin and cello.
All six pieces were well-crafted, from Mark Fromm‘s Aqua Regia and Eric Lindsay‘s the one best system to John Bacon‘s Haiku and Diana Soh‘s Flashed and Forgot: The practice of my absentmindedness and ending with Helena Michelson‘s Romance and Todd Tarantino‘s Haziri. Fromm’s work stood out structurally – its shape felt the most natural of the bunch – and as did Bacon’s, whose short yet effective vignettes proved that brevity can be a wonderful thing.
The evening concert was a curious beast, but not in a negative way. While the Meridian Arts Ensemble were headlining the event, the concert’s first half consisted of the inimitable Lisa Moore in a fantastic solo piano performance of Martin Bresnck’s For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise. If you haven’t experienced this work, complete with video animation and spoken and sung performances by the pianist, please do so (it’s included as a DVD on his 2006 release The Essential Martin Bresnick)…part concert piece, part theatrical incidental music, part film score, For the Sexes is a fine example of a multimedia work that doesn’t scream “Hey, look what I can do!”
The Meridian Arts Ensemble came out swinging in the second half with Alvin Etler‘s Quintet (an early staple of modern brass quintet rep) and the world premiere of Bruce Pennycook‘s The Redwood Quintet (nicely featuring Benjamin Herrington on a “I’m gonna stand way over here” trombone solo). I was almost beat into atonal submission by Edward Jacobs‘ Passed Time and Milton Babbitt‘s Counterparts, but Ira Taxin‘s Brass Quintet smacked me upside the head and brought me out of my dodecaphonic daze (did I just write that?). The Meridian brought all their chops for this concert and demonstrated that they could run the gamut from subtly tender to in yo’ face brash.
All in all, an enjoyable experience and one that you should check out if you’re remotely close to Buffalo this week – the afternoon 4:30 concerts are free and the evening 8:00 concerts are $12 and they’re all on the University of Buffalo’s North Campus. Here’s a brief rundown of the week:
4:30 Meridian Arts Ensemble performs works by Moshe Sulman, Elizabeth LIm, Jason Thompson & Travis Alford (Baird Recital Hall)
8:00 New York New Music Ensemble performs Sollberger, Bresnick, Rosenblum, and Foss (Lippes Concert Hall)
4:30 Chamber works of participants (Jennifer Bellor, Karen Park, Eleanor Aversa, Joseph Lake, Alexander Weiser and Andrew Ly) in Baird
8:00 Philippe Manoury and Christophe Desjardins perform Grisey, Béranger and Manoury (Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre)
4:30 Mikko Luoma performing works for accordion by Sciarrino, Lindberg, Tiensuu, Kärkkäinen and Hosokawa (Baird)
8:00 Verge Ensemble with works by Sollberger, Felder, Bresnick, Rands, Rosenblum and Antosca (Center for the Arts Drama Theater)
4:30 Stefano Scodanibbio performs solo bass works by Berio, Scelsi, Sciarrino and Scodanibbio (Baird)
8:00 Brad Lubman conducts the Slee Sinfonietta featuring works by Felder, Rands and Rosenblum (Lippes)
4:30 Verge Ensemble performs works by Sarah Carvalho, Christopher Rogerson, Chun Ting Pang, Christian Gentry, Janet Jieru Chen, Brian Griffeath-Loeb and Matthew Schreibeis (Lippes)
2:30 Robert Franz conducts the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in performances of works by Rands, Felder, Erb and Foss