Sunday, December 1, 2013

Chronicle of October 2013

October 2

New Music / New Places presents works of Claude Debussy, Edgar Varese, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Matthias Pintscher, and Gabriela Lena Frank, performed by flutist Carol Wincenc and cellist Jay Campbell.  Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY.  "[The program] was alluringly spiky music that felt at home amid Suddenness and Certainty, the gallery’s vividly colored current group show.  Mr. Pintscher’s Figura V / Assonanza for solo cello (2000) made particular sense in a visual-arts context. Inspired by Cy Twombly, its textures whisper and quiver, with silences and faint notes, rendered almost orthographic by Mr. Campbell’s clarity and specificity, alternating with frenetic dissolution.  Ms. Frank’s Cuatro Bosquejos Pre-Incaicos (Four Pre-Incan Sketches) from 2006 was also a response to art, in this case objects that she found in museums in Peru. The first movement, Flautista Mochica, pairs a gauzy-toned flute line and a strumming cello; the third, Mujer Lambayeque, combines earthy rhythms and ethereal tonalities.  Ms. Wincenc, a noted soloist and teacher and a longtime advocate of new music, played Varèse’s Density 21.5 (1936, revised in 1946) with a soulful, keening tone, and reserves of power for the piercing high notes near the end. She and Mr. Campbell came together at the end for Villa-Lobos’s Assobio a Jato (The Jet Whistle, 1950), a sensuous combination of her bright, agile tone and his rich, rhapsodic colors" [Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times, 10/4/13].

October 3

American Symphony Orchestra in New York Avant-Garde: works of George Antheil, Aaron Copland, Charles Griffes, Carl Ruggles, and Edgar Varese.  Carnegie Hall, New York, NY.  "New York Avant-Garde . . . focused on music from the seven-year period just after World War I. . . .  In works like Antheil’s Jazz Symphony (1925) and Copland’s Organ Symphony (1924), high art and popular music -- most notably in the form of jazz -- mixed before going their separate ways for decades.  These were works desperate to interrogate, not ingratiate. But the American Symphony’s alert, often simply beautiful performances emphasized the sumptuous, lyrical allure of music better known for its implacability.  The hulking blasts of Ruggles’s Men and Mountains (1924) weren’t stinted, but neither were the quieter twilight dissonances of its all-strings second movement, Lilacs.  In Griffes’s ingeniously orchestrated 1918 Poem for flute (the lyrical, agile Randolph Bowman), strings, harp, two French horns and percussion, the horns shone out of the thickets of strings like gold nuggets in grass.  . . . Botstein’s [square] beat . . . brought out the ominous undertones in Antheil’s Jazz Symphony, whose relentless repetitions of small bits of material suggest a reflection on jazz in the age of mechanical reproduction. The orchestra left it ambiguous whether the final waltz -- first in the able hands of the piano soloist, Blair McMillen, then those of the whole orchestra -- evoked the nostalgia of a state fair or a lifeless automaton.  Copland’s Organ Symphony, with Stephen Tharp as soloist, slips from melancholy to bombastic drama and back again.  But bombast is status quo in Varèse’s hectic Amériques (1918-21), with its sirens, whistles and crow calls. . . . [I]ts opening passages suggested The Rite of Spring zoomed through in fast-forward, and its heaving ending sounded like a monstrous waltz trying to emerge from a dark sea" [Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times, 10/4/13].

October 26

The Opus Project presents Opus 10.  Arnold Schoenberg's String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10, No. 3; Bela Bartok's  Image, Op. 10, No. 2; Igor Stravinsky's Petrushka: Russian Dance; Anton Webern's Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 10; Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 10: Allegro; Darius Milhaud's  Poem of Chateaubriand, Op. 10, No. 3; Paul Hindemith's String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10, No. 1; Kurt Weill's Frauentanz, Op. 10, No. 1; Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1, Op. 10, No. 2: Trio; Samuel Barber's James Joyce Song, Op. 10, No. 1; Benjamin Britten's Bridge Variation, Op. 10, No. 1; John Bilotta's Electronic Composition No. 10 "The Lottery of Babylon"; Oliver Knussen's Ocean de Terre, Op. 10, No. 1: Introduction; and Mark Alburger's Nocturnes for Insomniacs, Op. 10, No. 3.  Community Music Center, San Francisco, CA.

October 31

The Chiara Quartet plays the Complete Bartok Quartets.  Sheslow Auditorium, Des Moines, IA.  Through November 1.