2/6/08

Positive New Music Criticism!

Hey! Some people do like new music! This is a pleasant review of what sounds like a good concert. The opening sentence draws you in…

Salonen and company triumph in a far-reaching MusicNOW program

A funny thing can happen if you take a classical newbie to a MusicNOW concert.

I like where this is going. What is that funny thing?

Now in its 10th year, the new music series challenges most preconceptions by having (living!)

Good heavens!

composers present their works to an audience and then even mingle with listeners afterward. A sense of worship is replaced with the spirit of camaraderie.

That sounds outstanding. This mingling element is a fantastic part of the new breed of contemporary concerts. I recommend this. Is that the funny thing? Camaraderie? Because…you brought a newbie? No, that’s not it.

Add in the sleek contemporary space of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, and classical music gets a complete image makeover.

This “complete image makeover” is slightly exaggerated, but I approve of the sentiment.

So, what’s the funny thing that can happen when you take a “classical newbie” to such an event? Is it the image makeover? Because that doesn’t seem predicated on whether you bring someone or not.

On Monday night, there was much to gain from witnessing first-hand newer works by composers Esa-Pekka Salonen, Oliver Knussen and Rolf Wallin. CSO Mead composer-in-residence Mark-Anthony Turnage hosted a far-reaching program that included fragments of a David Lynch-like horror (by Wallin) and a contemporary take on Stravinsky's "A Soldier's Tale" (by Salonen).

That sounds interesting! I would like to see this concert.

Wallin's "LautLeben" (1999) was conceptually the evening's most unique creation. This daring electronic multimedia work comes from the school of Stockhausen, but takes enough risks to make its headmaster seem like Shirley Temple.

More risks than putting a string quartet in four helicopters?

Jazz soprano Sidsel Endresen, like Wallin a Norwegian (and who collaborated with him on the work), soloed in a way that Wallin described as if "her voice was traveling inside herself." Technology contorted her vocals around electronic tapes playing spastic throat calls and vertiginous squeals. An enormous screen behind the soprano projected glowing images that radiated delicately in the pitch-black theater.

I know it’s hyperbole, but that sounds like a lot of multimedia works. Which is fine, but not particularly “daring”. Small point.

So spacey was the work that Endresen had to inform the audience it was over, but she captivated nonetheless.

Sounds like she was very good. You might want to avoid the passive voice, though. However: I’m still waiting for the funny thing that can happen!

Back on earth, Knussen's short chamber symphony, "Songs Without Voices" (1992), scored for eight instrumentalists, revealed a more conventional work. Amy Dissanayake's liquid pianism and near perfect touch went a long way with CSO cellist Jonathan Pegis' effortless vibrato. Thorny harmonies crept in and out, but this was a seductive romance at its core.

Thorny harmonies might scare the “newbie”! That’s not the funny thing, is it? Because I think it's kind of funny.

Salonen, the veteran music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, had just come off a busy weekend guest-conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mozart's Mass and Knussen's Violin Concerto. When he moves on from the L.A. Philharmonic in 2009, he plans to devote more time to composing.

Salonen's "Catch and Release" (2006) is a rapidly changing, small-scale gem which provided poignant solos from CSO violinist Nancy Park and trombonist Charles Vernon. The maturity apparent in the last movement's brisk and bracing rhythms attested to a composer first, conductor second.

That sounds cool, too! I like his conducting but only know a little of his music. Now, you’re done describing all of the works. You can totally concentrate on telling me about that funny thing…the thing? That you described in your first sentence?

The article’s over?

(sigh)

4 comments:

Aaron said...

"Now in its 10th year, the new music series challenges most preconceptions by having (living!)
composers present their works to an audience and then even mingle with listeners afterward."

Admittedly, this is pretty cool, but I think it would be even more impressive if they got dead composers to present their works and mingle with listeners afterward. I hear Zombie Debussy is a riot.

Sator Arepo said...

Zombie Mozart is totally the bomb. I hear Zombie Handel is somewhat staid, though.

Erik Loomis said...

Sounds like a bunch of commies to me. New music....

I demand my composers not only dead but in fully skeletal form. Preferably with their gravesite unkonwn.

Anything newer than that sounds like that loud "rock and roll" that the kids are listening to. Like that Rolling Stones band.

AnthonyS said...

Well, Erik, Keith Richards is basically in "fully skeletal form", so there is some common ground, no?

Didn't I hear he snorted Max Reger's ashes or something?