Wednesday, April 08, 2009
In February I had the opportunity to hear two great performances in the Hattiesburg, MS area.
The first one, was down the road in Laurel, Mississippi (hometown of the amazing Leontyne Price) at the First-Trinity Presbyterian Church. The concert consisted of the Durufle Requiem and the Gloria by Francis Poulenc. It had been ages since I had listened to the Requiem. I came to the piece early in my undergrad years and had listened to it many times, but I had not heard it in years. My musical ears and tastes have changed since I first heard the work. The performance was wonderful other than a couple late entrances. My wife loved the piece, I still liked it but not with the same fervor I did years ago.
Until I attended this performance I do not recall ever listening to the Gloria by Poulenc. I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed it. The performance was excellent. Maryann Kyle was the soprano soloist and she did an amazing job! It was great to hear a local church choir perform these wonderful 20th century works. Not only was First Trinity Presbyterian a beautiful setting with wonderful acoustics for this concert, it was also one of the best concerts I have attended in a while.
The other performance I attended in February was the Integrales New Music Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi. This year, the festival celebrated the Elliott Carter Centenary. There were lectures given by S21 blogger Alan Theisen, Jonathan Bernard, and David Shiff. The concert featured performances by students, faculty and the incomparable Ann Schein.
The concert included a performance of Birthday Flourish. I had never heard the piece, and I am not aware of a recording. It was an exciting performance by USM students. The highlight of the concert came with the Piano Sonata performed by Ann Schein. I have always been a fan of the Piano Sonata, since the first time I listened to the work. I swear I have listened to the piece a thousand times. (Both the Charles Rosen performance and Paul Jacobs.) I was moved to tears. The Piano Sonata is a beast. It always surprises me when I hear it. (Also this was the first live performance of this work I had attended.) There is always something new to find and hear in the piece. (I also highly recommend Ms. Shcein's recording of Carter and Copland.)
I had a couple of friends in attendance that knew very little of Carter's music and were kind of weary to listen to his works. After this concert they were extremely eager to hear more. They were even asking people for their favorite Carter recordings.
Composer Everette Minchew (born 1977) is consistently active in the creation, performance, and promotion of contemporary music. Moderately prolific, his catalogue includes small chamber pieces for violin, piano, various wind instruments, harpsichord and electronic music. Current commissions include a string trio and an opera based on an 11th-century crusades tale.
His earliest musical training came at the age of eleven when he began playing alto saxophone; it wasn?t long until he began his first attempts in composition.
He received a Bachelor?s Degree in Music History from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he studied saxophone under world-renowned soloist, Lawrence Gwozdz.
Fearing that traditional university training would hinder his development as a progressive composer, he abandoned the idea of formal lessons in favor of an intense private study of modern masterworks.
Minchew's works are characterized by their intense timbral explorations and brutal dissonance. That is not to say, however, that the compositions are devoid of beauty. In the first of the Two Brief Pieces, for example, the harpsichord chimes stringent yet haunting chords evoking a sense of loss.
Other pieces, like the Figment No. 2 "Juggler's Fancy" play upon the kaleidoscopic interaction between timbres and tones. The rapid alternation of pizzicato, arco bowing, and extreme glissandi remind the listener of Xenakis coupled with a Berio Sequenza. Minchew's Invention "Two-Part Contraption" for piano owes much to Ligeti's etudes and boogie-woogie jazz.
His music has been performed around the United States, and he was the featured composer at the 2005 Intégrales New Music Festival in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
He currently resides in Hattiesburg, Mississippi with his wife, Cheryl.