Amid a crowded week of new music, Rivera, O’Connor and Spano perform at Bailey in advance of Carnegie Hall recital

by Mark Gresham | 18 Oct 2013

l-r: Robert Spano at the piano with Jessica Rivera and Kelley O'Connor at KSU's Bailey Center on Thursday

l-r: Robert Spano at the piano with Jessica Rivera and Kelley O’Connor at KSU’s Bailey Center on Thursday

This has been a week of interesting concerts in Atlanta which featured important presentations of new music, bit which have clashed in vying with each other for audience due to conflicting performance dates.

On Wednesday, typically an unattractive night for drawing an audience, both Bent Frequency and Atlanta Chamber Players were performing at the same time in different downtown locations. Since I cannot be in two places at once on behalf of ArtsATL, I previewed Bent Frequency’s performance of Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon’s staged cantata Comala at the Rialto, and reviewed Atlanta Chamber Players, including the world premiere of Charles Zoll’s completed “bailes encima del escritorio de nuestra juventud” (“dances atop the school desks of our youth”).

Thursday was no more advantageous in that respect. While the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, to which I was assigned for review, was performing the world premier of Philip Lasser’s piano concerto “The Circle and the Child” at Symphony Hall with pianist Simone Dinnerstein and guest conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the ASO’s music director, Robert Spano, was out in the far northwest suburbs being otherwise engaged as pianist in a recital with his vocal cohorts, soprano Jessica Rivera and mezzo Kelley O’Connor, at the Bailey performance Center on the Kennesaw State University campus in advance of two different appearances at Carnegie Hall.

The first of those Carnegie appearances is obviously a reprise of the recital with Rivera and O’Connor on Tuesday, October 29. But just four days before that, next Friday, October 25, Spano will take to the podium to lead the American Composers Orchestra in celebration of the 10th anniversary season of its Orchestra Underground series. Spano will lead the ACO in music by Peter Fahey, Christopher Theofanidis,Fred Lerdahl and Julia Wolfe. Both concerts are scheduled to take place in Carnegie’s Zankel Hall.

The recital at Bailey featured two new song cycles written specifically for Rivera and O’Connor. Rivera performed Jonathan Leshnoff’s “Monica Songs” while O’Connor performed “That Time With You” by David Bruce. Each cycle received its second performance on this concert, as the premieres took place out in San Francisco this past Sunday, October 13, although San Francisco Chronicle music critic Joshua Kosman had a few issues with that particular performance.

Rivera and Spano will perform three of the Leshnoff songs again this Sunday, October 20, at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, then the day after Spano’s ACO appearance will team up with O’Connor again in Cincinnati on Saturday, October 26, as part of the city’s Constella Festival before the trio heads for New York.

In addition to the new cycles by Leshnoff and Bruce, the touring program, as performed at Bailey, also includes a mix of vocal solos and duets by Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Gounod, Mendelssohn, Federico Mompou and Gabriela Frank.