Thursday, November 11, 2010

GOT A MINUTE? (3/27/2011)

Another remarkable example of support and encouragement of  current composers is Vox Novus, an enterprise created by Robert Voisey.  Of the many things that Vox Novus does,  its Composer’s Voice Concert Series brings works directly to the public.   In order to maximize the number of composers whose works can be heard Mr. Voisey has ingeniously created a portion of many of the concerts entitled 15-Minutes-of-Fame.  

The March 27 performance at the Jan Hus Church on East 74th Street featured one-minute piano works by fifteen composers all performed by pianist Shiau-ue Ding.  Many of the composers were present for the performance.  Another twist to this particular set of compositions is that most were composed as homages to Franz Liszt.   There were many clever take-offs on Liszt’s piano music.

Of the fifteen composers whose works  were performed by Ms. Ding, Emma Lou Diemer’s name was the only one I recognized.  Her work  “A Little Imagination” opened the concert.  While not evocative of Liszt,  the work does reflect Ms. Diemer’s interest in extended techniques for the piano such as playing on the strings and tapping on parts of the instruments.   The final work of this fifteen minute “suite,” Hammerklavier XI: What if I composer from I country wrote 60 pieces under a second for solo piano? by German composer Mortitz Eggert reflects his current interest in micro-composition, the title obviously reflecting Beethoven’s very lengthy Hammerklavier Sonata.   Between these two works were works evocative of the piano music or the spirit of Franz Liszt.

The Liszt tribute pieces amazingly touched on nearly every aspect of Liszt piano oeuvre. Some were literal recompositions of Liszt works (Bagatelle sans tonalite by Scott Brickman), some quoted from Liszt works (You're despicable by David Morneau), some expanded on a work by Liszt (while remaining under a minute!) (Nous voyons (after Arcadelt-Liszt) by Carson P. Cooman), some extracted a motive of Liszt (Sixty second man by Roger Blanc) and some merely evoked the sound of Liszt (Valsinetta Franz Liszt honoris causa).  One work managed to reference Liszt, Beethoven and Wagner (Last Varation on a Waltz by Diabelli by Alexandre F. Travassos).  

The remainder of the concert was every bit as interesting.  Flutist Laura Felson performed three very different works each of which reflects a different music culture. Stasima by Nickos Harizanos is a meditative work based on a five-note motive.  The work makes effective use of haunting registers and colors, along with extended flute techniques and reverberation provided through amplification.  Pottery Shards by Munir Bekenh Korde evokes the spirit of a Turkish Aaron Copland.  Finally, Anusvara by Shirish Korde is clearly modeled on Indian classical models with a drone provided by an electronic tanpura box and a clearly defined raga that slowly emerges.  The climbing of register throughout the piece also evokes Indian music. 

The concert concluded with a fascinating work for theremin, Three-Legged Race, composed and performed by Kevin Kissinger. In his notes, Mr. Kissinger explains that the work is almost completely a "live work with no pre-recorded elements" using a technique known as "live looping" to create layers of sound.  The thereminist is actually playing a duet with the computer as it controls the activity of the looping along with the parameter changes in the loops.  It was fascinating to hear this exotic instrument used in such a special way. 

The quality and creativity of all of the compositions affirms the notion that "contemporary classical music," or whatever one chooses to call it, is far from dead.  While the composers might not achieve the level of "fame" of much pop music or of even some classical performers, the continuity of the classical spirit is in good hands.

                                        Many of the composers and performers on the concert.

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