Jonathan Harvey Review in Musical America

Dissonance Meets the Divine

My review of last Thursday’s Jonathan Harvey Composer Portrait at Miller Theatre, featuring Ensemble Signal conducted by Brad Lubman, was published today in Musical America.

You can read it here (subscription required, but the magazine offers a short term free trial – why not kick the tires?)

Monday 10/15: Thomas Larcher premiere at ACF

Thomas Larcher. Photo: Richard Haughton.

This Fall, Austrian Cultural Forum continues to celebrate their 10th anniversary season with a variety of events. The concert they are presenting on Monday, October 15th seems somewhat to have fallen off of mainstream classical’s radar. More’s the pity, because it features a world premiere by Thomas Larcher, who is fast becoming one of Europe’s important composers.

What makes one an important composer? Sometimes critical apparatuses equate “bigger” with more “important:” operas, orchestra pieces featuring multiple tam tams, multimedia spectacles, etc. By that metric, Larcher is an unlikely heir to the Euro zone’s big guns. But for those willing to countenance the notion that more intimate works for smaller forces can also be compositions of great significance, Larcher is your man.

He is also a pianist, and much of his oeuvre is chamber music that features his instrument. The ACF commissioned a chamber work from Larcher, but one that doesn’t include piano. French/German cellist Nicolas Altstaedt and French violinist Nicolas Dautricourt, both members of Chamber Music Society 2, will premiere Larcher’s duo for strings alongside pieces by Ravel, Kodály, and Schnittke.

Event Details: The concert is at the Austrian Cultural forum on Monday at 7:30. Tickets are free, but you should reserve seats here.

 

Thursday: Harvey Uptown and Fairouz in Brooklyn

Among Thursday’s offerings, two composer portrait concerts compete for the attention of New York audiences.

Photo by Maurice Foxall.

I’m writing about the Jonathan Harvey concert for Musical America. Performed by Ensemble Signal at Miller Theatre, it features two of his large scale, spiritually inspired ensemble pieces, Death of Light/Light of Death (1998) and Bhakti (1982) (event details here).

Bird Concerto with Plainsong, Jonathan Harvey’s recent CD on NMC, is one of my favorite discs thus far in 2012.

Mohammed Fairouz is having his portrait concert  at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn. It is being produced by the folks at Issue Project Room. The program includes three world premieres and features the Borromeo String Quartet, Cygnus Ensemble, Elizabeth Farnum, pianists Kathleen SupovéBlair McMillen, and Taka Kigawa, and mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert. (event details here).  


Hot off the presses is Fairouz’s debut on the Bridge imprint, Sumeida’s Song, an opera about peacemaking and tolerance, written when the precocious composer was only twenty-two years old.

Saturday: Calloways perform Carey in Miami

I’m very pleased to report that mezzo soprano Rachel Calloway and cellist Jason Calloway will be, to my knowledge, the first musicians to perform my music in Florida. Tomorrow (Saturday 9/29) at 8 PM, they present a free concert at the Harold Golen Gallery in Miami.

Part of the Acoustica 21 series run by FETA (Foundation for Emerging Technologies and Arts), the program will include pieces by Peter Sculthorpe, Andrew Waggoner, and Carl Schimmel, and my own triptych of Jane Kenyon settings.

Sounding Beckett Sounds Good

Holly Twyford in Sounding Beckett. Photo: Jeremy Tressler.

Three of Samuel Beckett’s late one-act plays (from his “ghost period”) are the source material for Sounding Beckett, an interdisciplinary collaboration that is entering its second (and final) weekend of New York performances at Classic Stage Company on September 21-23.Theatre director Joy Zinoman has enlisted a fine cast of actors and resourceful design team, Cygnus Ensemble directed by guitarist William Anderson, and composers Laura Kaminsky, John Halle, Laura Schwendinger, Scott Johnson, David Glaser, and Chester Biscardi to create a production that is both respectful of the playwright’s work and imaginative in its incorporation of music.

Beckett was quite specific about what sounds and music are to be added to his plays: one can’t just insert incidental music willy-nilly without running afoul of his estate. Sounding Beckett avoids this pitfall, instead allowing composers to have the last word: after the actors have left the stage. Each of the plays - Footfalls, Ohio Impromptu, and Catastrophe – has been supplied with a musical “response” by two different composers. A composition is played directly after the performance of each play (the “cast” of composers rotates. This past Sunday afternoon, the show I attended featured music by Schwendinger, Halle, and Kaminsky).

In a talkback after Sunday’s performance, Schwendinger underscored that the pieces we heard were meant as musical responses to the plays: not necessarily programmatic outlines or storytelling. Thus, her piece responded to the strong emotions churning under the surface of Footfalls with sustained passages of controlled, but angst-imbued dissonance. After seeing actor Holly Twyford’s simmering performance in the play, one could readily understand Schwendinger’s poignant, elegantly crafted response.

Halle’s piece after “Ohio Impromptu” featured a more effusive language, with arcing lines surging towards, but never quite reaching, a place of closure and repose. Again, while not mimicking the action on the stage, his music seemed like a kindred spirit to Ted van Griethuysen’s mellifluous reading of a tragic story of love lost;  it also resonated with the silent, but facially expressive, performance of actor Philip Goodwin. I was also quite taken with Kaminsky’s composition, which nimbly captured the emotional content portrayed by Catastrophe’s three disparate characters.

Cygnus Ensemble (Anderson, guitarist Oren Fader, flutist Tara-Helen O’Connor, oboist James Austin Smith, violinist Pauline Kim, and cellist Chris Gross) were impressively well-prepared; they performed all of the compositions with top notch musicality. Anderson, a composer himself, has supplied a multifaceted overture and economical music for scene changes. His work draws upon the sound world of modern classical music in a way that is simpatico to the compositions of the featured composers, while also referencing the type of incidental music one hears in current productions of plays in New York. If Anderson needs another hat to wear, he might consider creating incidental music for more plays!

Details

SOUNDING BECKETT will perform Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. from September 21 to 23.  Tickets are $50 and $75 and go on sale starting July 20.  Tickets can be purchased by calling Ovation Tix at 866-811-4111 or on online at www.soundingbeckett.com

League of Composers (Concert Announcement)

Today I learned some very exciting news. My duo For Milton will be performed by the League of Composers Chamber Players on Sunday February 24, 2013. Concert details below.

The piece has also been released on CD by Perspectives of New Music/Open Space Magazine (PNM/OS CD 3, available here).

League of Composers Chamber Players
Sunday, February 24, 2013 – 3:00 pm
Tenri Cultural Institute

Tickets: $20 gen. adm / $10 student/senior, available in advance, or at the door.

Penumbrae (2008) Luke Dahn
Piano Trio (2009) Jordan Kuspa
For Milton (2011) Christian Carey
Sextet (1937)    Aaron Copland
Rhapsody for Cello and Piano (1994) David Chaitkin.

Friday: Annie Gosfield at Moving Sounds Festival

From tonight until Saturday, the Austrian Cultural Forum sponsored Moving Sounds Festival takes place. Thursday saw the Mivos Quartet perform new works by Carl Bettendorf and Reiko Füting while Christian Meyer and Franz Hackl gave a lecture recital entitled “Schoenberg and the notion of Avant-garde.”

On Friday, composer Annie Gosfield appears in a portrait concert at the Czech Center as part of Moving sounds. It includes the premiere of “Phantom Shakedown”. The piece for piano accompanied by a broken shortwave radio, a cement mixer, and tube noise. It’s one of the pieces on Gosfield’s latest CD, the just released Almost Truths and Open Deceptions (Tzadik). Dynamic and captivating, both the concert and  CD embrace amplified industrial music and distressed chamber works, in a concoction that balances sonic seduction with formidable avant gauntlets.

Annie Gosfield in concert
September 14 and 9 PM
Bohemian National Hall at the Czech Center
321 E. 73rd St.
New York, NY 10021

For more Moving Sounds events on Friday and Saturday, check out the festival’s website here.

9/20: Interpretations at Roulette (Concerts)

Thomas Buckner’s Interpretations series begins its twenty-fourth season on Thursday, September 20th at Roulette. The program is a double bill featuring David Behrman’s vocal work My Dear Siegfried and Canadian composer Tim Brady’s 24 Frames, in which prominent guitar solos are accompanied by a chamber ensemble and video projections. Performers include Buckner, pianist Cheryl Seltzer, cellist Theodore Mook, and trombonist Peter Zummo.

INTERPRETATIONS PRESENTS:

David Berhman’s “My Dear Siegfried”
Tim Brady’s “24 Frames”
Thursday September 20, 2011
8PM at Roulette, in Downtown Brooklyn!
509 Atlantic Ave (corner of Atlantic and 3rd Ave)

Sep. 6: Symphony Space Celebrates Joan Tower

On Thursday, September 6th, New York Chamber Music Festival celebrates Joan Tower’s seventy-fourth birthday with an All-Tower concert. Performers include flutist Carol Wincenc, violinist Emma Steele, pianist Blair McMillen, the Da Capo Players, and the Escher String Quartet: all commissioners of or longtime collaborators with Tower.

Click here to purchase tickets for the Happy Birthday, Joan Tower concert at Symphony Space

Thursday, September 6 at 6 PM

Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space
2537 Broadway at 95th Street, New York, NY 10025-6990
Phone: 212-864-5400
Fax: 212-932-3228
symphonyspace.org

Joan Tower page at Schirmer’s website.