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TO . . ., 3
Hear Museum Art (B.L.C./Greenfest) <> Mad Dreams and Brits
THE PRINTED WORD
RECENT RELEASES, 31
COMPOSER INDEX, 34
BULLETIN BOARD, 35
Chamber Players In Concert for Impact
Birtwistle: Refrains and Choruses
Review of Concert
Dinosaur Annex: Metaphysics and Magic
May 4, 2003, 8:00 PM
by David Cleary
The Dinosaur Annex season finale devoted its program to six works by mid-career tonemeisters of varying notoriety. It was the two newest entries, both specially commissioned by the group, that pleased most.
Moments of Inertia (2003) by Tom Flaherty contains three movements worth of neo-process patterned accompaniments out of which various fetching melodies emerge. As in Steve Reichs best music, these planes of textured backing interact well with each other, deftly delineating larger structural units. And the sound world is irresistible, making scintillating use of its flute-viola-cello trio. In brief, its an absolute must-hear. For Pierrot ensemble with added percussion, Kurt Stallmans Metaphysical Miniatures (2003) is also a winner. It cleverly combines East Coast idioms with subtle ostinati, imparting a nicely sculpted sense of line and textural contrast to its overall fabric. Like Webern, Stallman imbues his short movements with style and meaning.
There was also much to like in Stephen Hartkes piano quartet Beyond Words (2001), a sober reflection on the horrors of September 11th. Much of the material heard here is based on snippets from Thomas Talliss Lamentations of Jeremiah, which are then filtered through a highly chromatic, often polytonal harmonic prism. The work projects a strong sense of personality and unfolds cogently, though its often strict segregation of strings and piano took some getting used to. Magic Carpet Music (1999) showcases Laura Elise Schwendingers sturdy command of craft and sensitive ear for scoring; its quartet of flute, violin, cello, and clarinet/bass clarinet is handled in novel, yet highly effective ways. Although the piece wanders a bit structurally, at times seeming too repetitive, its clearly the product of a talented artist.
The oldest selection heard, Libby Larsons Slang (1994), starts off well enough, ably assigning spiffy motoric material to its clarinet, violin, and piano threesome that flits effortlessly between classical and jazz-oriented sonorities. But the back half of the work bogs down into articulating a quasi-rondo structure that seems unbalanced and arbitrary. Had it remained a perpetuum mobile throughout, it would have been much more effective. Plie de Trois (2000) by Peter Homans, scored for flute, viola, and harp, possesses a manner of speech too derivative of Debussys model for comfort. Sadly, its problems do not end there, as it also lacks clear delineation of idea, compelling conception of form, and sense of energy at any level.
Performances were excellent. Cyrus Stevens (violin), Anne Black (viola), Michael Curry (cello), Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin (flute), Katherine V. Matasy (clarinets), Donald Berman (piano), James Russell Smith (percussion), and Judi Saiki Couture (harp) maintained the lofty level of professionalism one has come to routinely expect from this fine ensemble. Scott Wheeler conducted Stallmans piece with thoughtful accuracy.
Bravos to Dinosaur Annex for ensuring that this concert, subtitled "Metaphysics and Magic," had boatloads of the latter quality present. Much enjoyed.