Sadly, the Title Was Not Apt

Music review: Exotic chamber music opens Stowe festival
Jim Lowe, Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, August 20, 2010

Exotic? So, you mean something other than Beethoven and Mozart?

Trying something new and unusual isn't very American, plus I'm pretty sure that's how the country got overrun with all these communists. But, I'm game.

figure unusual: Sure, what the hell.

The Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas is more than an excellent New York orchestra, it's an ensemble of fine individual instrumentalists.

Interesting. So you're hypothesizing that there is an excellent New York orchestra that isn't an ensemble of fine individual instrumentalists?

Rochester Philharmonic...I'm looking in your direction.

(Just kidding, of course, because everyone knows it's the Albany Symphony that is made up of a bunch of loafing, slack-jawed yokels.)

The Music Festival of the Americas at Stowe opened Wednesday at Topnotch Resort,...

Topnotch? That's a good name for a resort. Very good name. I wonder who's the ad wizard that came up with that one.

...with a chamber music concert that showcased members of the weeklong festival's resident orchestra – and some proved superb.

Others sadly didn't. I hope someone had the guts to put those poor musicians out of their misery.

The POA, led by Music Director Alondra de la Parra, is in-residence in Stowe for the week for Music Festival of Americas at Stowe.

Excellent. Show me some exotic music.

figure 19th century exoticism: The Exotic White Man

Maybe some little traveled Chinese classical music, or perhaps even the locally exotic musics of Harry Partch, for example?

Most impressive was a deeply felt and passionate performance of Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 7 in f-sharp minor, Opus 108.

Wait. I thought you said the program was exotic? Now, I've never been to Russia, so it's exotic to me, but...Shostakovich? A string quartet? With an opus number? Come on.

Violinists Daniel Andai and Brooke Quiggins Saulnier, violist Ryan Rump and cellist Benjamin Capps, all POA principals, played with an intimate sense of ensemble not often heard outside of a fulltime [sic] quartet.

figure vodka: Yes, it's Russian, but not terribly exotic. Wait...win a what?

Maybe this was just the warm up to the impending exoticism.

Andai is a particularly fine violinist with a keen musical sense and a rich, warm sound. (He is also on the faculty of Vermont's summer Killington Music Festival.) But,...


...he was well-matched by the others in creating a compelling performance of this three-movement work that mixes the forlorn nature of the Soviet Union with a suppressed wit, even sarcasm.

Or maybe it was written in memory of his first wife, Nina, who had passed in 1954. But who am I to get in the way of preconceived notions of what all of Shostakovich's music must be about.

However, again, I must say that I am not impressed with the exotic credentials of a Shostakovich quartet. That's fairly ubiquitous fare as chamber music goes.

What else ya got?

Also fascinating and well-played was the String Quartet by Mexican contemporary composer Enrico Chapela (b. 1974).

Mexican... contemporary.... I like what I'm hearing. Although, when you think about it, Mexico is about as exotic as Canada. But whatever, it's not like it's distinctly American. Or even partly American...it's exotic.

figure not-that-exotic: It's Mexican-ish. Also, earn a jillion buckaroos!

The sunny work combines Latin themes...

To be expected...
I suppose.

...and jazz flavors...

Hmmm..."Latin themes" and "jazz flavors"...this is beginning to sound slightly less exotic. But I'm sure that it mixes these popular elements with a unique, boldly exotic harmonic language

...with thoroughly modern but accessible harmonic language.

An "accessible harmonic language"? Hmmm...that sounds decidedly not exotic.

The performance by violinists Cecee Pantikian and Saulnier, violist Rump and cellist Maria Jeffers was passionate and exciting – and a crowd-pleaser.

Passionate? Well, I can see you're well-versed in Latin cliches? Was it also perhaps, hot and spicy?

The biggest crowd-pleaser,...

As your editor, I would suggest not using the phrase "crowd-pleaser" twice with in the space of four words. Just saying.

Carry on...exoticism of epic proportions must surely await us.

...though, were several “pop” selections by a brass quintet: trumpets Michael Gortham and Gabriel Dias, hornist Daniel Wions, trombonist Alexis Regazzi and tubist Justin Clarkson.

First of all, I am definitely a fan of the "unnecessary" use of quotation marks, but pop music is hardly exotic.

Am I beginning to repeat myself? I'm starting to think that we don't know what the word actually means, or I guess more accurately, have a very low threshold for what qualifies for exoticism.

A Spanish march and “Bess, You is My Woman” from Gershwin's “Porgy and Bess” were stylishly played, but it was a jazzy version of “Amazing Grace” that brought the house down.

I hate when that happens.

figure popular exoticism: Everybody was kung-fu fighting.

So after the strange and foreign musings of the brass quintet wrecked the stage, what happened next?

Conversely, an intimate and at times tender conversation between two violins was achieved in New York composer Kyle Saulnier's Duo.

New York composer...and I was beginning to think this concert wasn't all that exotic.

Brooke Quiggans Saulnier, the composer's wife, and Elizabeth Young, who also plays in the Vermont Symphony, played lyrically and warmly making this conversation charming and compelling.

Sounds compelling.

figure exotic?: Okay, this is a tough one.

What else was compelling?

Another compelling performance was of Argentinean composer...

Ah, Argentinean! Now we're getting somewhere

Also, what did I tell you about repeating word choices?

Also, also...Argentine composer? Or maybe Argentinian?
Anywho, you were saying, compelling performance of Argentinean composer...

...Astor Piazzola's “Historia del Tango.”

Oh. Piazzola.

Harpist Kristi Shade's sensitive lyricism was beautifully contrasted by Nuno Antunes' jazzy clarinet in this fine sophisticated work.

I must say that I'm having a hard time hiding my disappointment.

But I guess I should remember our definition: exotic = something other than Mozart and Beethoven. So I guess it's not all bad.

Two traditional works were less successful.

Traditional? I could be wrong (but I'm not), but I'm fairly certain that traditional and "pop" just aren't the standard criterion for exotic.

However, I should thank you for bringing some common sense to all this "exoticism". I was beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable with all these new and strange musics.

Yep, some traditional values (i.e. something like Mozart and Beethoven, but clearly not them, since that would probably be too on the nose, as it were) sound pretty good right about now.

figure "go-around-the-person's-intellect": Where. Is. The. Crocoduck?

The playing in one movement of Mozart's Horn Quintet, K. 407, was rough but the spirit was there. The playing was fine in Beethoven's Serenade, Opus 25, for flute, violin and viola, but the music-making wasn't comfortable.

The music-making wasn't comfortable?

The "playing"...was fine. O-kay.

But, the "music-making" wasn't comfortable? ...

Damn. I thought I had it there for a moment. Maybe you can help explain?

These are busy musicians.

Good point? Busy makes music-making uncomfortable? So, out-of-work, lazy musicians (Albany musicians I assume) would logically make the most comfortable music, yes?

But, then we're left with a strange catch-22 -- if you hire these lazy musicians for their comfortable music-making abilities, they would cease to be apathetic and slothful, and therefore, more uncomfortable in their music-making.

And therefore, comfortable music-making only exists in theory. Kind of like absolute zero.

Whoa. I just totally blew my own mind with that one.

Tonight, the orchestra, conducted by de la Parra, will perform its staple Latin American classical music,...

Again, playing one's "staple" doesn't seem very exotic. I hate to harp on that one word choice, but you know, it's sort of (if not exceptionally) confusing.

...this time, Mexican works from its new Sony Classical album, “My Mexican Soul.”

I'll be the burrito-taster.

figure exotic: Kind of erotic too.


AnthonyS said...

1. I am consistently amazed at your masterful use of the Google Image search.

2. "Exotic" is a hard word to use. It's a term with a lot of academic baggage, and even when used popularly, it tends to make people wince. I think "unusual" might be a better term.. especially in a concert that mixes presumably terrible pop arrangements for brass ensemble (!), a boring Mozart piece, and some Shostakovich. "Eclectic" would be a decent enough word. It just seems "exotic" is somehow not the right word choice here..

Hot Mormon Muffins.. seriously?

Sator Arepo said...

Although, AnthonyS, the Exotic Dancer Barbie was indeed aptly titled, I would have to agree.

Hot Mormon Muffins, indeed.

My recent passage through South Carolina has reminded me what an easy, if superficially counter-intuitive, mix Jesus and smut make.

And by "smut" I mean...well, not Hot Mormon Muffins, let me tell you. Er, Buddy.