For the past 27 years, the Mexican-born pianist and composer Max Lifchitz has been a tireless and resourceful promoter of new music (including his own) through live performances and recordings with the North/South Consonance Ensemble, the chamber group of the non-profit North/South Consonance organization. Many young composers, particularly those of the Neoclassic or New Romantic temperment (Larry Bell comes immediately to mind), have gotten a career boost from Lifchitz’s annual programs and recordings, which now number nearly 50.
I mention all this because North/South Consonance’s final concert of the current season is coming up on Sunday afternoon June 17 at 3 PM and will take place at Christ & St. Stephen’s Church (120 West 69th St, NYC) on Manhattan’s West Side. Admission is free (no tickets necessary).
The program will feature two compositions involving narration: Igor Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat and Lifchitz’s The Blood Orange. I personally detest works that involve people talking while I’m trying to listen to music, but apparently some people like it and many famous composers have written works for ensemble and spoken word.
Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale was written at the end of World War I and is one of those Faustian/Devil Goes Down to Georgia things about trading in your soul for a fiddle. Lifchitz says the work is being performed to mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of the composer and, in fact, it is being performed on June 17, the exact day Stravinsky was born in 1882 in a town near St Petersburg.
Lifchitz’s The Blood Orange is a setting of a text by New York City writer Kathleen Masterson, written especially for the actress Norma Fire, who will perform it. The narrative with music relates the story of Fire’s parents who emigrated to this country before the Holocaust, and of their relatives who did not. Fire will be supported by violinist Claudia Schaer and Lifchitz on piano.
Today’s musical question is: Name the best pieces ever written for music and narration (and let’s get Copland and Honegger out of the way quickly).