ICE left town Sunday evening, leaving behind a wintry mix and some deeply inspired musicians.

Okay, I know, the corny ICE puns are getting tired. I promise I’ll stop.

The highlight of their visit was the last event: a recording session of five works by student composers. We’ve had guest contemporary ensembles do reading sessions many times before, and they are all very helpful, but this one was extraordinary. Part of the reason is that we’ve become better at organizing the sessions on our end, but a lot of it had to do with the commitment and skill of our guests. Each student came away with an outstanding recording, and a lot to think and talk about in the weeks to come.

The concert the night before was full of goodies. It started off with Steve Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint, which is a piece I’d enjoy more on recording than live, because you can’t help trying to listen for the live flutist in all of the recorded flute counterpoint, which is a futile exercise. Elliott Carter’s Esprit rude/esprit doux II is okay but not one of my favorites – as my wife says, it sounds a bit like Carter doing Carter, rather than a compelling work on its own merits.

But the rest of the concert was great, especially pieces by Huang Ruo and Franco Donatoni. Huang Ruo’s: Concerto No. 3: Divergence is one of a series of pieces he has written for the ensemble. It has all of the things you would hope to hear in a young composer: fresh, vivid ideas, over-the-top theatrics, a couple of creative dead ends – things he probably benefited from trying once. And Donatoni’s Arpege was full of arresting combinations and intricately woven games.

I have further thoughts on the concert that I hope to get to in a future post.

We also had two master classes, a round table lunch, a symposium and a number of informal encounters. About the only downer was the cancellation of their flight from Newark, which meant they arrived late and we had to compress some of their activities. Continental said the cancellation was due to weather, but I’m suspicious, because I was under the impression that we always have weather. It’s clear to me that the airline is involved in some kind of a conspiracy against new music.

Leave a Reply