Music

Bard’s Conservatory Orchestra offered on November 1 a program focused on personal and historic transformation. The program began with contemporary composer Byron Adams’ Concerto for Violincello and Orchestra (2000, revised 2015). After the wonderfully melodic Allegro moderato that portrayed happiness, the piece became a resigned elegy for a mentor and friend of Adams. In the third movement, Soliloquy and Finale, cellist Raman Ramakrishna excelled in conjuring loss and mourning in the tragic Soliloquy, as dissonance invaded melody—Ramankrishna’s bow arcing in lightning whip-like strikes. The Finale rose to acceptance, intimating a new perspective on life that permitted melody to once more take its place. Adams came down the aisle to the stage amid loud applause, put his hand to his heart, and gestured outward to the audience with moving appreciation.

  

It was fitting that Canadian composer Tim Brady should have the premier of his Third Symphony in a new space in Williamsburg that itself premiered earlier this month.  National Sawdust opened with considerable publicity after a long period of gestation. We saw it for the first time Thursday with a performance curated by David T Little employing his own Newspeak ensemble of 11 musicians and the highly trained Choir of Trinity Wall Street with 16 singers. 

Brady’s symphony is based on “Symphony” a long poem by Chilean writer Elias Letelier that describes the terror of living under Pinochet.  It is an hour long piece, symphonic in concept, with the choir taking the role of a component of the orchestra.  I thought the piece sounded like a cross between Philip Glass and Nico Mulhy.  The choir sang tonalities while the instruments played dissonance.  Tonality clashed with atonality, reflecting political tensions, strife and tragedy. 

It was fitting that Canadian composer Tim Brady should have the premier of his Third Symphony in a new space in Williamsburg that itself premiered earlier this month.  National Sawdust opened with considerable publicity after a long period of gestation. We saw it for the first time Thursday with a performance curated by David T Little employing his own Newspeak ensemble of 11 musicians and the highly trained Choir of Trinity Wall Street with 16 singers. 

Brady’s symphony is based on “Symphony” a long poem by Chilean writer Elias Letelier that describes the terror of living under Pinochet.  It is an hour long piece, symphonic in concept, with the choir taking the role of a component of the orchestra.  I thought the piece sounded like a cross between Philip Glass and Nico Mulhy.  The choir sang tonalities while the instruments played dissonance.  Tonality clashed with atonality, reflecting political tensions, strife and tragedy. 

Bard College Conservatory of Music alum Julia Bullock will perform a concert with pianist Renate Rohlfing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on November 10 at 7 p.m. Presented by the Walter M. Naumburg Foundation, the recital will include works by Samuel Barber, Francis Poulenc, Edvard Grieg, Kurt Weill, and others.  The recital is part of the prize Bullock received as the Naumburg Competition winner in 2014.

Both Bullock and her pianist Rohlfing are accomplished, up-and-coming artists. Bullock recently made her debut with the New York Philharmonic. She will once again be working with director Peter Sellars and the Deutsche Oper Berlin on Kaija Saariaho’s La Passione de Simone. Rohlfing has collaborated with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, and the Juilliard Vocal Arts program, among others.

On Sunday afternoon, October 25, we heard the second performance of Leon Botstein’s newest student orchestra, TŌN.

 

 

In his introductory remarks, Botstein explained that the students, who pay no tuition and get a $24,000/year stipend, learn how to play in an orchestra, and also learn how to become like docents in a museum, that is, capable of explaining music to a layperson, all for the purpose of introducing classical music to the next generation. The explaining part no doubt has a valid future, and is one that foundations might very well support. The Mellon Foundation has stepped up with a $2 million grant that was supplemented by a Rockefeller grant.  

The first performance of the full TŌN (pronounced tone) Orchestra, The Orchestra Now, at Bard proved to be a resounding success on October 24. This augers well for both students, patrons, and loyal attendees of the Sosnoff Theater where the concert hall was 95% sold out as conductor Leon Botstein took the podium.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, where Beethoven first began to stake out his originality, had been previewed at Simon’s Rock last month. The performance there was good, but Saturday night’s performance was more nuanced, richer in both sound and unity. The superior acoustic of Sosnoff gave the Orchestra an extra lift, yet the players were more relaxed, self-confident. There was more drive in the Scherzo and more polish in the final movement. Dawon Eileen Suh from Korea emerged as a stand-out violinist.

Unlike Medea, The Bacchae, or Iphigenia in Aulis, Iphigenia Among the Taurians is not one of Euripides’ masterpieces, yet the current adaptation by students at Bard College on October 22 under the able direction of Jean Wagner offers an interesting meditation. This feminist play is often labeled as a romantic comedy. The substance of the play runs to the core of what made the Greeks invent a great civilization: a belief that Greek myths and stories were superior to barbarian beliefs and stories. On the subject of myth and story, Greeks were not fundamentalists like most barbarians. Their stories were the source of their collective cleverness—that was their exceptionalism. Barbarians were blinded by power, greed, and fumbling fundamentalism.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center opened its season Wednesday, October 20, with an extraordinary array of young and old artists playing standby 19th century classics.  It provided a treat that fully justifies the society’s reputation as a home of musicians of superior talents.

Two new faces among the list of artist members of CMS  are pianist Michael Brown and cellist Nicholas Canellakis , both of whom we have heard at Music Mountain and at Chamber Music II. They often play together. Their U-Tube https://www.youtube.com/user/nick5072 is worth as visit. Brown is a composer and he appears to be a talented pianist.  He wrote a short program note in which he said of the Mendelssohn, “most important of course is its humor, elegance, shifting moods, delightful interplay among the musicians, and ultimately sheer optimism that reminds us what chamber music is all about.”

Sō Percussion, technically “in residence” at Bard (but actually pursuing an international touring schedule) has established a music that is catching on.  So’s wide touring schedule has produced scores of followers, not the least of which are the student percussionists at Bard, six of whom joined forces in the Luhring Augustine Gallery in Chelsea where music and art melded in a harmonious experience.

Sō Percussion is developing its own vocabulary and its own instruments that take getting used to. On Monday, October 19 night, the six performers said that they edited down their instruments to the most portable for their trip to New York. Otherwise, the performance area might have instruments not often found in concert halls. But that is changing.

A quartet that takes popular music, re-arranges the music with a classical twist and touch of soul inflection, received a warm, enthusiastic reception at Trinity-Pawling school last Friday, October 16. All four musicians attended graduate school at Boston University. Tenor Micah Christian met three roommates who were all musicians. They became friends and had hoped something might happen musically.

But upon graduation in 2012, they all went their own way. Christian, cellist Kendall Ramseur, and harpist Mason Morton all became teachers. Pianist Cordaro Rodriguez went to practice law with his law degree. The summer after graduation Rodriguez and Ramseur had together composed a song without words as they busked in the dank Boston subways. All four played this interesting classical piece entitled D. major. I liked it enormously but couldn’t classify it.

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