Posts Tagged “Merkin Hall”

Merkin Hall’s Ecstatic Music Festival kicked off this week with a seven hour long marathon of concerts on Monday. The focus of the festival is on connections between contemporary classical and current indie/pop music. Artists from both sides of the stylistic street are performing. This year, the festival runs all the way until March 28th.

This pop/classical hybridization may not be everyone’s cup o’ joe (John C. Adams has had some less than charitable things to say about it of late), but it certainly is inspiring to a number of composers in their 20s and 30s, and the energy of their work and enthusiasm of their collaborations I finding exciting.

Alas, I missed the marathon, but I’m going to see the Chiara String Quartet, performing works by Nico Muhly &  Valgeir Sigurðsson, tomorrow night (review will appear in Musical America later this week).

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Mirror Visions Ensemble (Photo: Harold Shapiro).

Tonight at Merkin Hall, the Mirror Visions Ensemble is presenting Concert à la carte. Its first half features food-themed works by American composers, ranging from art songs by Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, William Bolcom, and Martin Hennessy to offerings from Broadway tunesmiths Stephen Schwartz and Cole Porter.

But the second half of the concert is where the concept really kicks in. Mirror Visions has commissioned a new work from composer Richard Pearson Thomas. His cantata know thy farmer sets a number of texts drawn from the menus of Blue Hill at Stone Barns Restaurant. The evening also includes an introduction from Blue Hill’s executive chef  and co-owner Dan Barber.

Will menus from a sustainable cuisine venue provide good lyrics? Well, Pearson Thomas isn’t the first to pore over recipes for musical inspiration. Bernstein’s “Rabbit at Top Speed,” featured on tonight’s program, has long provided a dose of humor on countless vocal recitals. Here’s hoping that sustainable menus will provide some food for thought, and inspired music-making, tonight.

Concert à la carte
Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 8pm
Merkin Concert Hall – Kaufman Center

Tickets for this event are priced at $25/$15 for students and may be purchased by calling 212-501-3330 or by clicking here.

Mirror Visions Ensemble

Vira Slywotzky, soprano

Scott Murphree, tenor
Jesse Blumberg, baritone

Guests:

Richard Pearson Thomas, piano
Harumi Rhodes, violin
Alberto Parrini, cello

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I really enjoyed Q2’s broadcast tonight of New Sounds Live, a concert at Merkin Hall by the Bang on a Can All Stars that featured works by Nik Bartsch, Oscar Bettison, Christine Southworth, Michael Nyman, and David Longstreth. The first in a hopefully ongoing series of collaborations between Q2 and Merkin Hall, it was also a featured event in this week’s Composers Now festival.

I particularly enjoyed the Bettison work, The Afflicted Girl, in part because it’s quite affecting; but it also helps that I was able to study in advance and follow along with a perusal score sent over by the kind folks at Boosey. Funded by BoaC’s Peoples’ Commissioning Fund, the piece is what Bettison calls an “anti-pastorale.” Its based on a quote from Peter Ackroyd’s London: the Biography. It describes an afflicted girl frequently found in a busy thoroughfare, seemingly oblivious to the cacophony around her. Or, as in Bettison’s posits in his piece, perhaps she found a kind of music amidst the chaos.

Clangor is Bettison’s daily bread: many of his works employ junk metal percussion. The Afflicted Girl involves copious percussion batteries, prepared piano, a keyboard tuned a quarter tone flat, taped echoes of the ensemble, plenty of electric guitar harmonics, and a Shapey-esque scordatura tuning of the cellos C string – down to G for rumbled slackening. What’s more, all the players double on bicycle bells!

Alternately assaultive and contemplative, rhythmically charged and, briefly, eerily reposeful, its a demanding, challenging, harrowing, and memorable work.

Bang on a Can. Photo: Christine Southworth

Bang on a Can. Photo: Christine Southworth

Sad you missed out on the Q2 broadcast? Fear not: the performance will be featured on a March broadcast of New Sounds.

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