(after lighting the candles, the Ouija board speaks!)
I. D. O. N. T. K. N. O. W. G. O. A. S. K. T. H. E. E. I. G. H. T. B. A. L. L.
I have a particular affinity for the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP). It’s one of my favorite ensembles in the country. They program only newer works, often written by local Boston composers, and often New England Conservatory students. It’s a great opportunity for today’s composers to get their pieces played in the spotlight, where, under normal circumstances, their pieces only serve to fill the time between the opening tone-poem and the gigantic symphony.
That said, they don’t deserve this poor excuse of a review. While the tone is favorable, Matthew Guirrieri trips and falls on his own shriveled wit, and the orchestra suffers.
Friday’s wide-ranging Boston Modern Orchestra Project concert demonstrated how unhelpfully vague the umbrella term “modern music” can be.
A sonorously malignant first utterance! I don’t think that I have to touch upon the abysmal, vomit-inducing sentence construction. Suffice it to say, the rest is as poorly written as the first f-ing one. Just keep that in mind.
But what is interesting here is Guerrieri’s assertion that “modern music” is not descriptive enough. Perhaps he’d like to go to the record store with me. And perhaps he’d like to follow me into the “alternative” section, where he’d likely find Erykah Badu sitting next to David Bowie. Has he never noticed how the ancient music section (chant and churchy stuff) throws the early baroque composers in to limbo? Is Purcell in or out? Is he classical? Is he ancient? Has Guerrieri ever noticed how “modern music” can describe, at the same time, Debussy (dead for 90 years) and Adés (alive for 37 years)? Grow up Guerrieri. Labels are useless, especially today. If you want clearly defined categories, maybe you should have become a librarian instead. (Now that I think about it, library science is pretty difficult, probably too difficult for Guerrieri)
Some New England Conservatory link was the only correspondence among the disparate works, gathered under the title “Boston ConNECtion”...
What gave it away? The title? The composers? The performers? The hall, in Boston? At NEC? This is a lame thing to say.
...(and performed under Jordan Hall’s architecturally ill-mannered “New England Conservatory” signboard, which continues to intrude on the season’s concert experience like a dinner-time telemarketer).
...and performed in Jordan Hall’s architecturally splendid concert space like a dinner-time blow job. F.Y.I. Jordan Hall is a public landmark. What was it again that you were complaining about?
Photo © by Ed Kunzelman
In some ways, NEC doctoral candidate Osnat Netzer’s “Common Ground” (a premiere) resembled an action movie—skillfully choreographed activity concealing a threadbare plot.
For reference: the Oxford English Dictionary defines “plot” as the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence. The OED also defines “threadbare” as poor or shabby in appearance.
Thus, logically, we can conclude that “threadbare plot” means: a poorly or shabbily appearing sequence of interrelated events.
So finally, just a tiny question, Guerrieri. Is it possible that Netzer purposefully and overtly omitted linear references? If you are still looking for thematic unity (whatever that means, today) or narrative (whatever that means, today), may I suggest another little tune for you? How bout “Marry had a Little Lamb?” Don’t waste your time. And ours.
Also premiered was “Concert Piece II,” for two clarinets and small orchestra, by Ezra Sims, venerable explorer of the far-flung intonation of an octave divided into 72 parts, rather than the usual 12.
A reduced string complement diminished the outer fast sections’ harmonic context, but the slower, wind-anchored center revealed the exotic virtues of Sims’s sound world, veering from murky shadows to pungent brightness, orchidaceously vibrating close dissonances contrasting with the hollowed-out depth of wider intervals.
Seriously, I can’t do this anymore. I don’t have the seven free hours it would take to parse this “sentence.” I’m sorry. I’m done. I think I’ll leave you all with some of my favorite hyperbole and “ajhgwygs!!??!!.” Do with them what you will.
[the soloists] leading an incandescent, bracing chorale, was transporting.
...initially pedestrian themes engender Technicolor apotheoses.
...a fearlessly expressive soloist...
...the ensemble’s energy flowed past [the soloist] rather than through him.
...the closing confabulation was a hoofer’s dream.
...but the fascination was in how the simplest ideas a descending third, a dotted rhythm beget abundant rhetorical variety.
...[the bassoonist] swapped corresponding operatic temperaments—hero, menace, comic relief—with unassuming stylishness.
Leon Kirchner’s 1955 Toccata for Strings, Winds, and Percussion’s muscular, expressive post-Schoenberg atonality might have seemed an incongruous close, but echoed much of the evening in its rhythmic drive and confident directness of utterance.
Artistic director Gil Rose, presented with Columbia University’s Alice M. Ditson Conductor’s Award, prior to the concert, led notably crisp, articulate, performances; the ensemble’s lean clarity ideally matched each divergent [dinner-time?] course.
P.S. My assumptive insertion. But, if it is appropriate, I like how his earlier little rip on the NEC billboard about the dinner-time telemarketer resurfaces to become a subtle exclamation point and metaphoric punch-line of the review. Blow me.
P.P.S. See? I can do it, too.
[Edit Empiricus] P.P.P.S. Matthew should, of course, have a job writing about music. He's usually darn good at it.