by David Cleary ©2006
Lumen Contemporary Music Ensemble presents a tribute to Martin Boykan and Donald Martino. Also music by Qualliotine, Ricci, Watrous, Tassone and Lieberson. Paine Concert Hall, Harvard U. , Cambridge, MA. February 5, 2006.
This event presented by the composer consortium group Lumen was to have been a 75th birthday gala for two local serialist icons, Martin Boykan and Donald Martino. The latter's death in December 2005 made the occasion more somber than originally planned, but did not diminish its excellence. It's a pleasure to report that the two featured composers furnished splendid music.
Boykan's Second Chances (2005), a seven-part song cycle for mezzo-soprano and piano on poetry of Mary Oliver, presents a widely varied tapestry of moods ranging from forcefully dramatic to quietly understated and everything in between-a wonderful work of complex depth and truly etched emotions. Its serial universe has broad flexibility in sound, readily able to admit verticals of varying degrees of clangor.
Martino's pair of offerings constitute his last completed compositions and show him ending his career in remarkable fashion. Both the four movement Sonata #2 for Violin and Piano (2004) and the single entity Trio for Violin, Violoncello, and Piano (2004) exhibit a forthright, focused, uncluttered manner of speech that is well-nigh Beethovenian in its ardor and clarity. Structures are cleanly limned and carefully balanced, and the row-based harmonic language, while flinty, is bracing and lucid. They stand proudly with this terrific composer's finest utterances. Martino's solo cello work Parisonatina al' Dodecafonia (1964), a first-rate marriage of East Coast pointillism and heartfelt drama, also appeared this afternoon.
Music saluting both masters made up the lion's share of the program's remainder. All were brief and pleasing to hear to varying degrees, with the best being Armand Qualliotine's Two Haiku (2005) for mezzo-soprano/piano pairing -a warm setting of the composer's own tiny verses coupled with music that is simultaneously Atlantic Seaboard derived and expressive-and James Ricci's Two Pieces for Piano (2005)-an evocatively musing and third-laden essay subtly tinged with early Berg. Two Birthday Cards (2005) for cello by John Watrous and Two from Dallapiccola (2005) for violin by Pasquale Tassone were able if a bit less memorable slices of Northeast-style crunchiness, while Peter Lieberson's Forgiveness (2001) demonstrated felicitous writing for its baritone voice and piano duo. This last showed kinship to the scalar language of Ricci's opus and proved worthwhile.
Performances were committed, earnest, and polished. Violinist Sunghae Anna Lim, cellist Rhonda Rider, and pianist Donald Berman showed both ensemble savvy and soloist prowess. Mark McSweeney (baritone) and Pamela Dellal (mezzo-soprano) sang with a full yet unforced tone, carefully considered interpretive skills, and solid enunciation.