In March, I wrote about a seminar Kenneth Frazelle gave on his Sonata-Fantasy for piano. At the time, it was a work in progress. On Saturday night, it was premiered at the spanking new auditorium of the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, which commissioned the piece to celebrate the new Babcock wing.
The auditorium was packed, standing room only. It appears to have been designed as an all-purpose venue, which is always a frightening concept to me — all-purpose venues so often serve no purpose particularly well. The seating in the new auditorium is of the creaky bleacher variety. Surprisingly, the acoustics are not bad — not terribly warm, but very clear. I would guesstimate the space seats 150-200.
The Sonata-Fantasy is huge, just on the other side of thirty minutes, in three movements. I wrote about the first two movements a couple of months ago, but the third movement was brand new to me. On second hearing, I had more trouble with the first movement than I had before — the range of ideas and mercurial shifts were harder to follow without the score. I’ll be curious to see how I respond with further hearings.
The second movement is still spectacular. And the third movement is a wonderful surprise, an epilogue that is both concise and far-reaching.
The audience ranged evenly in age from 20s to 70s, and there was a tremendous electricity in the air, the feeling that we were experiencing something new and wonderful, and experiencing something new and wonderful really mattered.
We live in a time when more music is being produced than ever before, yet no era has been less sure of what music is, or more skeptical of the cultural value of music.
Saturday night, for thirty minutes, the value was not in question.