Concert Review: NY Philharmonic’s Contact!


New York Philharmonic; David Robertson, conductor

Metropolitan Museum of New York

June 8, 2012

The end of the third season of Contact!, the New York Philharmonic’s contemporary music series at the Met Museum and Symphony Space, was led by guest conductor David Robertson; a staunch advocate for new music and specialist in modernist-leaning repertoire. The program, for chamber orchestra, featured two premieres commissioned by the NY Phil: NACHLESE Vb: Liederzyklus by Swiss composer Michael Jarrell and Two Controversies and a Conversation by the 103 year-old American composer Elliott Carter. It also included …explosante-fixe… a watershed work for multiple flute soloists, electronics, and ensemble by French composer Pierre Boulez.

Jarrell’s piece featured soprano Charlotte Dobbs singing translations in several different languages of a poem (originally written in Spanish) by Seventeenth Century poet Luís de Góngora. Its unifying concept: the idea of how texts are reflected and even changed when translated (the game of telephone as post-structuralism). Not only does the vocal part require polyglot linguistic flexibility; it features a wide vocal and dynamic range, demanding exquisite control: Dobbs handled it with impressive finesse. The piece’s musical language itself, while colorfully orchestrated, didn’t transform nearly as much as the texts it treated: Jarrell’s penchant for disjunct leaps and pervasive dissonance could have accommodated a bit more variation.

Carter’s post-centenarian works have been aphoristic, but bursting with creativity. Conductor Oliver Knussen heard an earlier version of this work,Conversations, and asked the composer to expand it. The resulting lightly orchestrated concertino for piano, percussion, and ensemble gave soloists Eric Huebner and Colin Currie a number of brilliant passages separately and in dialogue with each other. Despite Carter having already written several works for piano soloist and a recent piece for percussion ensemble, he still has wily tricks up his sleeve. A particularly brilliant passage saw Currie playing brilliant ascending arpeggios on a marimba and xylophone placed at right angles, moving seamlessly from one mallet instrument to another. IfControversies/Conversations will likely be seen as a diminutive companion piece to Dialogues, Asko Concerto, and even the Double Concerto, this interplay of sharply delineated characters is a welcome continuation of a distinctive compositional approach.

Robert Langevin, Alexandra Sopp, and Mindy Kaufmann were the flute soloists for the Boulez work (Langevin’s instrument outfitted with MIDI). The piece displays some of the fruits of Boulez’s labors in the early 1980s at the electronic music studio at IRCAM in Paris. Like the Carter work, it deals with instrumental interplay as well, but in a more coloristic rather than characteristic fashion. Shimmering slabs of orchestral harmonies, clouds of overlaid flute passages, and ricocheting angular gestures are haloed by interactive electronics, which refract musical excerpts into a swirling kaleidoscope that envelops the listener. …explosante-fixe… is important, even canonic, in that it suggests a way forward in which orchestras and electronics don’t just coexist onstage, but interact in organic fashion. The ensuing thirty years have found countless composers extending this idea, but few of them have created works as memorable as this.

July 8th: Ethel plays “Music in the Garden”

Instead of going too far out of town, string quartet Ethel in Queens, New York. The group partners with The Noguchi Museum to present Music in the Garden, a performance series held in the Museum’s sculpture garden in Long Island City, New York!

The series continues this Sunday, July 8 a program titled Present Beauty, celebrating the concepts of presence and continuity.  Featured on the concert is Ethel’s own arrangement of Philip Glass’s score from The Hours as well as works by Mark Stewart, Terry Riley, Julia Wolfe, David Lang, and Huang Ruo.

The Music in the Garden series will continue on August 12 with composer/performer Andy Akiho; and September 9 with the eclectic electric guitarist and composer Gyan Riley.

These concerts are all free with museum admission. For more information, please visit the Noguchi Museum’s website or call 718-204-7088.

NY Phil’s Contact!: Behind the Boulez (Video)

Tonight, the New York Philharmonic’s Contact! Series comes to Symphony Space, repeating the program they presented yesterday at the Met Museum, performing works by Elliott Carter, Michael Jarrell, and Pierre Boulez. Below we learn more about putting together Boulez’s …explosante-fixe…

(ticket info here).

A Combustible Combination

Tonight (May 30th), C4 Ensemble, a choir comprised primarily of composers and conductors, partners with amplified chamber ensemble Fireworks for a gig at Le Poisson Rouge: C4′s first at the venue.

In a program titled “When Sparks Fly,” these combined forces present music by Fireworks founder Brian Coughlin, Jonathan David, Karen Siegel, and Martha Sullivan. The program is repeated on Saturday at MMAC (details below).

WEDNESDAY, May 30, 2012

(Le) Poisson Rouge

158 Bleecker St (Thompson & Sullivan)

7:30 PM (doors open at 6:30)

$15 Advance Purchase/$20 Day of Performance at

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Theatre at MMAC

248 West 60th St (10th-West End)

8:00 PM

$15 at the door or online

5/30: Amy X. Neuburg debuts at the Stone

This month, Gyan Riley is curating for New York venue the Stone. One of the San Francisco residents that he’s invited to visit the Big Apple for a gig is avant-cabaret artist Amy X. Neuburg, who performs there tonight (details below).

Neuburg eschews the usual instrumentation of a cabaret performer, instead using an electronic drumset. But the music isn’t isolated to percussive utterances; rather the synth drums serve as a control surface with which she can trigger live recording and overdubs. Thus, a drum hit might ‘sound’ like drums, or it might just as easily trigger backing vocals or synth patches.

Using this setup, Neuburg often creates multiple loops, each with its own place in the sound field. Her set at the Stone (her first appearance there) will introduce some new works, but also revisits her back catalog, updating several pieces to accommodate this ”spatialized” aesthetic.

Amy X. Neuburg at the Stone

May 30 at 8 PM

The Stone,

Corner of Avenue C and Second Avenue


Tickets: $10 at the door

Concerts this weekend: Babbitt and Collide-O-Scope

Low Bunk bows cardboard this weekend!

To many, Memorial Day weekend means the kickoff of the summer season: getaways, barbecues, traffic, and more traffic …

But the New York new music scene doesn’t seem to be on holiday from its Spring season yet. indeed, we’ll be talking a number of events in coming weeks, extending well into June.

Performers and, one hopes, audiences, aren’t even taking the weekend off. Tonight is an all Milton Babbitt concert at CUNY Grad Center. It features several pieces done by the performers who’ve made them part of their core repertoires. But any chance to hear Judith Bettina sing Philomel again or William Anderson and Oren Fader play Soli e Duettini is most welcome. Less often heard but featured here is the early “Composition for Four Instruments” and the piano duo Envoi from 1990. Though it’s bittersweet to go to hear Babbitt’s music without his convivial presence and sepulchral commentary, it is good to see that the Composers Alliance and CUNY are making every effort to keep his music alive.

Milton Babbitt Retrospective

Friday, May 25, 2012, 7:30pm at CUNY Graduate Center

Elebash Recital Hall (365 Fifth Ave, New York) Free Admission


None but the Lonely Flute (1991) Patricia Spencer, flute

Envoi (1990) Steven Beck and Zachary Bernstein, piano

Soli e Duettini (1989) Oren Fader, guitar, William Anderson, guitar

Melismata (1982) Karen Rostron, violin

Philomel (1964) Judith Bettina, soprano

Composition for Four Instruments (1948) Patricia Spencer, flute; Charles Neidich, clarinet; Joshua Modney, violin; Christopher Gross, cello

My Ends are My Beginnings (1978)Charles Neidich, clarinet

More Melismata (2006) Christopher Gross, Cello

Swan Song no. 1 (2003) Barry Cooper, flute; Robert Ingliss, oboe; William Anderson, mandolin
Oren Fader, guitar; Calvin Wiersma, violin; Susannah Chapman, cello; James Baker, conductor

Music Programs The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue • New York, New York 10016-4309
(212) 817-8590 •


On Saturday, Collide-O-Scope Music is presenting a varied program, including a Babbitt work as well, but mostly featuring music by emerging and mid-career composers. As is often the case, CoSM programs both works for conventional instrumentation and for sound objects that are decidedly unconventional. Here, the latter is represented by Lou Bunk’s “scratch-o-lin,” a cardboard contraption that he fervently attacks with a violin bow!

Collide-O-Scope Music presents “The Medium is the Music”
Alexandra GardnerNew Skin (2002)
James RomigWalls Like These (2012)
Lou BunkShreds of New Walls (2012) *
Christopher BaileyFantasy-Passacaglia After Hall and Oates II (2012) *
Lou Bunk: Study for Bowed Cardboard (2010)
Christopher BaileyOutlying Afterward (2012) *
Michael Klingbeil: Vers La Courbe (2012) *
Milton BabbittPreludes, Interludes, and Postlude (1991)

* World Premieres

Saturday, May 26 at 8:00 PM
The Cell Theater
338 West 23rd St., New York City
Tickets: $15/$10 (students)
For tickets and more info:

Tuesday: Mirror Visions at Merkin

To celebrate twenty years of championing  art song, the Mirror Visions Ensemble is presenting a concert tonight at Merkin Hall. The program, titled “A Score of Scores,”  includes several selections new to New York audiences. The Three-Paneled Mirror, consists of three new sets by Richard Pearson Thomas, Tom Cipullo, and Christopher Berg, set to poems by Jeffrey Greene.

Event Details

Tuesday, May 22 at 8:00 PM

Merkin Concert Hall

New York

129 W. 67th Street
New York, NY 10023

Phone: 212 501 3330

Tickets: $25/$15 for students.

The Mirror Visions Ensemble:
Vira Slywotzky, soprano
Scott Murphree, tenor
Jesse Blumberg, baritone
Margaret Kampmeier, Alan Darling, and Gary Chapman – piano

Tuesday: Garth Knox at LPR (CD; Concert Preview)


Garth Knox, viola & fiddle

with Agnès Vesterman, cello & Sylvain Lemêtre, percussion

ECM Records CD 2157

Dance music in multiple forms, from the saltarello, a Venetian dance dating back to the Fourteenth century, to  Breton and Celtic folk music, as well as transcriptions of medieval era compositions, Renaissance era consort music, and contemporary fare, are featured on Saltarello, violist Garth Knox’s latest ECM CD.  Among the early music slections, Particularly impressive is a Vivaldi concerto, performed in a duo arrangement for viola d’amore and cello. Its interpreters, Knox and Agnès Vesterman, take this continuo less opportunity to accentuate a supple contrapuntal interplay between soloist and bass line. Equally lovely is a piece that combines music by Hildegard and Machaut in a kind of medieval style mash-up. Also stirring is this duo’s version of John Dowland’s most famous piece, Lachrimae, perhaps known best in its incarnation as the song “Flow My Tears.”

Knox, who is a past member of both Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Arditti String Quartet, also performs the disc’s newer material with consummate musicality: he also has the bedeviling habit of making virtuosic writing sound far too easy to play (his poor violist colleagues!). Knox’s own composition, “Fuga Libre,” combines jazz rhythms and neo-baroque counterpoint with ever more complicated harmonic tension points and several instances in which Knox demonstrates various extended playing techniques. Meanwhile, Kaaija Saariaho’s Vent Nocturne, an eerily evocative and tremendously challenging piece for viola and electronics, is given a haunting, sonically sumptuous rendering.


Tomorrow night, Knox celebrates the release of the CD at LPR (details below). Early music, new pieces by and for Knox, and lovely comestibles on menu and on tap? Sounds like my evening’s planned!

Event Details

Tuesday May 22nd – Doors open at 6:30, show starts at 7:30

Le Poisson Rouge

158 Bleecker Street, NYC| 212.505.FISH

music of Hildegard von Bingen, Guillaume de Machaut
John Dowland, Henry Purcell, Antonio Vivaldi, Kaija Saariaho, and Garth Knox

Friday and Saturday: ACME at the Kitchen

ACME: The Music of William Brittelle & Mick Barr

William Brittelle. Photo: Murat Eyuboglu

Album Release Concerts for Brittelle’s Loving the Chambered Nautilus

World Premiere of “ACMED,” written for ACME by Mick Barr of Orthrelm

Friday, May 11 at 8pm & Saturday, May 12 at 8pm
The Kitchen | 512 W. 19th St., NYCTickets: $12 at 212.255.5793 x11 or