Your Ad Here!
Send Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kenneth Radnofsky, Faculty, and Friends Perform Music of Our Time
by David Cleary
Tuesday, February 22, 2005, 8:00 PM
Even by Kenneth Radnofsky's usual generous standards, his presentation of four pieces created under the auspices of his landmark World-Wide Concurrent Premieres and Commissioning Fund proved remarkably bountiful. It's a pleasure to report that all the beneficent composers produced worthy responses.
Plum Blossoms (2004) for alto sax and piano shows Shih-Hui Chen deftly handling a sound world that mixes Atlantic Seaboard grit and Oriental idioms such as pentatonic and whole-tone scales. A keen ear for timbral variety and felicitous delineation of a non-prescriptive binary structure further cast this work as a winner. For saxophone quartet and piano, Armand Qualliotine's Fantasia on B.A.C.H. (2004) shows that an East Coast approach can be downright lovely in the right hands. This piece takes full advantage of the delicious, romantic qualities one can conjure up from such a scoring. And the work's motivic economy, derived from the tetrachord alluded to in the title, provides sturdy pillars to buttress this beautiful exterior.
The Jester, the Artist, and the Little Lion (2004), scored for cello, piano, and alto sax, is one of Howard Frazin's best works. Elegant and attractive, it inhabits a lightly clouded tonal world that ably weds aspects of Leonard Bernstein and Olivier Messiaen . There's plenty of intricate textural detail that pleases, too-it's charming without being lightweight. John McDonald's Transcriptions, Op. 397 (2004), for string quartet and alto sax, is unlike anything else your reviewer has ever heard by this tonemeister . Shot through with obsessively circular string ostinati , twisted sax cantilena lines, and fractiously granitic formal outlines, this is stark, nihilist music that truly disturbs. McDonald risks all here on an entity which some may think a mistake, while others (this critic included) consider it an evocative, remarkable work.
The other recent selection encountered this evening also saw the largest number of players mount the stage. Big Epithalamium (1997) by Charles Wuorinen splits its sixteen alto saxophone performers into two antiphonal octets, parceling out close canonic fragments among them and framing it all with an opening and closing octave punctuation. It's brief and plenty strange, but definitely worth hearing.
Performances were uniformly excellent. Radnofsky participated in all but Wuorinen's opus, showing excellent control of tone and fingers as well as an accomplished ear for phrasing. As part of the Radnofsky Quartet, he proved a sensitive complement to the formidable talents of Philipp A. Staeudlin (soprano sax), Eliot Gattegno (tenor sax), and Eric Hewitt (baritone sax). Hewitt also ably conducted Big Epithalamium , while pianist McDonald and members of the string foursome Sound Factory (Olivia DePrato and Chris Otto on violins, Beth Guterman on viola, and Lauren Radnofsky on cello) assisted splendidly elsewhere.