Caught Da Capo Chamber Players Monday night in Merkin Hall. The program was called Direct Current and featured pieces that blend electronic sound and acoustic instruments. Very different atmosphere from the Bang on a Can marathon the day before – much smaller audience, but everyone was there to listen. Which do I prefer? I’m glad to have both. Keeps my ears on their toes.
The following morning, Merkin was packed for a tribute to the late George Perle. I never knew Perle personally, and I’ve had only had passing acquaintance with his music, which occupies a tonal landscape that had little attraction for me in my student days. I could only stay for the first half, but the highlights were frequent and very high. Particularly potent: Leon Fleisher ascending to the stage from the audience to play Brahms’s arrangement for left hand of the Bach Chaconne in D Minor. It’s a version I’ve enjoyed picking at with two hands, but apart from the superior technical facility Fleisher brought to bear, the sound he was getting from the instrument was just spectacular.

Of the three spoken tributes I heard, Paul Lansky’s memories of an undergraduate theory class at Queens taught by the young Perle were the most amusing and touching.

And the discovery of the program was Perle’s Six Celebratory Inventions, performed by pianist Michael Brown. Clever, understated, witty – top-drawer stuff.

Aside from that, it was bracing to look around the audience and see a roll-call of new music’s old guard. They’ve been kicked around a lot for the last thirty years, so I was happy to see them having a well-deserved moment to share with one another. And I was thankful that the remarkable man George Perle seems to have been made it possible for me to see them gathered.

I was sorry, though, that I had to miss the Daedalus Quartet performance, which came last. But I made up for it by rehearsing with them, along with Benjamin Hochman, yesterday afternoon. I got soaked walking in a downpour from the A-train to the rehearsal, but their preparation and enthusiasm quickly made me feel all warm and cozy. Tomorrow we’ll head to the Academy to record, before I catch a late-night flight back to North Carolina.

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