Friday, June 1, 2012

Chronicle of April 2012

April 2

Cutting Edge Concerts New Music Festival: James Joyce and Tendrils of ’30s Swing. Symphony Space, New York, NY. Programs through April 30. "The composer Victoria Bond has never been afraid to experiment with unusual combinations, musical and otherwise, in her Cutting Edge Concerts. The series, now in its 15th season, used to bring together musicians and representatives of other disciplines -- chefs or architects, for example -- in the hope of finding some sort of philosophical common ground. . . . The series, which includes five weekly concerts in the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater at Symphony Space, has traditionally focused on contemporary classical music in conventional styles. But this year’s prospectus includes flirtations with indie-classical hybrids. At the opening installment on Monday evening, the first half of the program was devoted to unalloyed jazz, with works by Daniel Jamieson and Jim McNeely, performed by Mr. Jamieson’s Danjam Orchestra, a modern version of a big band, with a heavy complement of woodwinds and brasses, as well as electric guitar, piano, bass, drums and a vocalist who mostly doubled some of the instrumental lines. The jazz composers were represented by two scores each: A Desperate Act and Phantasm, by Mr. Jamieson, and two pieces inspired by Paul Klee paintings, Der Seiltänzer (The Tightrope Walker) and Tod und Feuer (Death and Fire), by Mr. McNeely. Their styles were not radically different, perhaps because Mr. Jamieson studied with Mr. McNeely. They share an approach to harmony and color, and their music sounds rooted in 1930s swing, with touches of the chromaticism, deliberately loose intonation and melodic angularity of later incarnations of jazz. The second half of the program began with Ms. Bond’s Leopold Bloom’s Homecoming, an inventive amplification of a passage from James Joyce’s Ulysses, for tenor and piano. Joyce’s writing -- and Ulysses, particularly -- has yielded reams of music over the last few decades, most notably the lush settings of Stephen Albert. Ms. Bond’s score is spare and direct: the questions asked of Bloom, about how he spent his day, are spoken rather than sung, and Bloom’s musings are alternately lyrical and introspective, depending on Joyce’s wide-ranging imagery. Rufus Müller, the tenor, projected it with clarity, spirit and a warm, enveloping tone, and Jenny Lin gave a graceful account of the vital piano writing. N. Lincoln Hanks’s energetic four-movement Monstre Sacré closed the program. The sacred monster of the title, Mr. Hanks explained, describes musicians whose peculiarities and social lapses we tolerate for the sake of their artistry. The only one he identified in his comments was the pianist Glenn Gould, which explains the passing references to Bach’s English and French suites, but not those to Gershwin, Prokofiev and other composers who flit through the piece). The success of Mr. Hanks’s work was that it offered you enough purely musical twists that you stopped wondering which monsters he had in mind" [Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, 4/3/12].

April 8

Anna Caterina Antonacci. Alice Tully Hall, New York, NY. "Antonacci alternated . . . Fauré works with song sets by Reynaldo Hahn, the Venezuelan-born French composer, including selections from Venezia, settings of poems in Venetian dialect. In Hahn’s song La Barcheta (The Little Boat), a man with love on his mind ushers the becoming Nineta onto a boat in the moonlight. Each verse ends with a yearning 'Ah!' As sung by Ms. Antonacci, these expressions were not milked for effect but seemed to be the subdued sounds of internalized desire seeping out. . . . [She] end[ed with] a solemnly beautiful performance of Licinio Refice’s 1935 song Ombra di Nube" [Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 4/9/12].

April 10

Michael Brown performs his Constellations and Toccata and George Perle's Classic Suite. Weill Recital Hall, New York, NY. 'George Perle’s Classic Suite (1938), is actually an old work that Mr. Brown and Shirley Perle, the composer’s widow, recently discovered in a box of unpublished manuscripts. Cast in the rhythms of Baroque dances (an Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gavotte and Gigue) but couched in a mildly dissonant harmonic language, the suite is a lively dialogue between eras, with a touch of the lyricism that would distinguish Perle’s later music. Mr. Brown played it with energy and clarity, qualities he also applied to his own rugged Constellations and Toccata (2012), a work with a spare, atmospheric opening movement that gives way to a sizzling perpetual-motion finale. He read both works from an iPad, and he is repeating his own piece at his next recital" [Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, 4/11/12].

April 14

Fresh Voices XII: Not Shy and Retiring -- Mark Alburger's 55th and Friends, a benefit for Goat Hall Productions and San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra. Mark Alburger's The Decameron, Triple Concerto, and Psalm 92, Samuel Barber's Sure on This Shining Night, Ann Callaway's Vladimir in the Country, Chris Corniela's Flight, Gary Friedman's Three Happy Oboists, John McGrew's Three Haiku, Sheli Nan's Saga, and music of Lisa Scola Prosek and Kurt Weill. Community Music Center, San Francisco, CA.

Tod Machover's Remembering H.M. Cambridge, MA. Through May 13.

April 29

John Cage Centenary Percussion. Community Music Center, San Francisco, CA