Piano Trio No.1, Op.32. 3pm, Trinity Presbyterian Church. georgianchamberplayers.org
Piano Trio No.1, Op.32. 3pm, Trinity Presbyterian Church. georgianchamberplayers.org
by Mark Gresham | 6 APR 2017
This is a big week for new music in Atlanta. A lot of things have come together to make it so. The SoundNOW 2017 Festival – an umbrella moniker for a number of independently programmed contemporary music performances – began on Sunday and continues through this coming Sunday. SoundNOW is only in its second year, but making its presence known.
I was able, so far, to attend the first two of these concerts, and fortunate to have one of my own works performed on Monday evening, and also to attend Sunday afternoon’s opening concert. Both were downtown at the 400-seat Kopleff Recital Hall at Georgia State University.Sunday’s concert was presented and performed by Terminus Ensemble, which performs music by current or formerly Atlanta-based composers. Olivia Kieffer opened the program with seven excepts from her ”Texture of Activity” (2016) – 55 short minimalist pieces which were originally for toy pianos, but in this instance performed on the hall’s concert grand piano. Kieffer would play four more selections from the book on Monday’s concert, but on a pair of amplified toy pianos, one toy piano per hand as part of neophilia Ensemble’s portion of that concert. On Sunday, though, she had a second piece on the program, “Hot Work,” in a new transcription for alto sax and viola, performed by saxophonist Brandyn Taylor and violist Michael Brooks. Originally for bass clarinet and tenor sax, the combination of viola and alto sax worked surprisingly well – something worth consideration by other composers.
Brooks also gave an impressive performance of “Lattice I,” a well-stenciled three-movement work for solo viola by Terminus co-artistic director Brent Milam, a composer with a background in physics and mathematics, which he readily applies to his compositions. Pianist Ipek Brooks (spouse of violist Michael) performed another work by Milam, “Quiet Spaces,” the third of his “Five Movements Anachronique.”
An Atlanta native who now lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, Lowell Gerard Fuchs was represented by a vocal piece, “The Voices in Maximilian’s Head,” inspired by a true story of a man, diagnosed with schizophrenia in his early twenties, and which ultimately consumes him. Percussionist Brandon Dodge played vibraphone and tuned tom-toms as a fully collaborative part to the musically astute voice of guest soprano Carolyn Balkovetz.Sunday’s concert concluded with a mellifluous “Trio” for flute, cello and marimba by Curtis Bryant. Brandon Dodge returned to the stage to play the marimba part of the three-movement work, joined by flutist Amy Caputo and cellist Erin Cassel Idnani.
The stage for Monday evening’s concert was shared by neoPhonia ensemble and the Atlanta Chamber Players. The first half was presented by neoPhonia, and as it was partially funded by the GSU Center for Hellenic Studies it was not surprising to see works by living composers of Greek heritage on the program.
The concert opened with “Prosody,” a solo flute work by Yiorgos Vassilandonakis, who is currently on the faculty of the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Performed by flutist Matthieu Clavé, like many post-WWII works for unaccompanied flute, “Prosody” made use of a handful of extended techniques.
Likewise drawn from contemporary Greek repertoire was “Two Songs” 92007) by Thessaloniki-based composer Sotiris Despotis, performed by soprano Kyriaki Ioakeimidou and cellist Daniel Green.
In addition to Kieffer’s aforementioned toy piano pieces, the other work on neoPhonia’s program segment was “She Sings, She Screams” for alto sax and fixed media electronic audio by another Greensboro-based composer, Mark Engebretson, performed by saxophonist Joshua Heaney.
After intermission came the Atlanta Chamber Players – in this instance, violinist Helen Hwaya Kim, clarinetists Ted Gurch and pianist/artistic director Elizabeth Pridgen.
Changing the order of the printed program, Helen Kim and Liz Pridgen opened with “Study: Music, Pink and Blue No. 2” by Alan Fletcher, written for violinist Robert McDuffie and himself as pianist, inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe painting “Music, Pink and Blue No. 2.”
My own work was up next: “Genshi” for E-flat clarinet and violin, performed most splendidly by Helen Kim and Ted Gurch. They had premiered the piece in 2011 as part of the summer Sonic Palooza marathon, held in the Galleria in front of Symphony Hall at the Woodruff Arts Center. So I was thrilled to have them perform it in this concert as part of SoundNOW 2107.
The obvious reason for changing the printed order was so as to end the concert with Mark Buller’s “Motion Studies,” the completed chamber work that was one consequence of winning the 2016 Rapido! Composition Competition with what became the work’s challenging final movement, “Regressive Variations.” It was a thrilling performance, especially that final movement. This was the second time I’ve heard he completed “Motion Studies,” the first time was upon its premiere last September. The Rapido! Win also won Buller a chance to write for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. That work, “The Songs of Ophelia,” will be premiered by Robert Spano and the ASO on this season’s subscription series closer, June 1st and 3rd.
SoundNOW 2017 continues through April 9. Check out the SoundNow 2017 event page on Facebook. •
[Photos by mark Gresham.]
by Mark Gresham | 29 MAR 2017
On Tuesday, the Atlanta Chamber Players announced it is seeking a new executive director. Current executive director Rachel Ciprotti is relocating to Seattle, Washington. A search for her replacement will begin immediately, with a goal for the position to be filled by May 1, 2017. A complete job description can be found online here.
One of the city’s premiere chamber music ensembles, Atlanta Chamber Players was founded in 1976 by pianist Paula Peace and has continuously brought high-caliber performances and innovative programming to Atlanta audiences for over 40 years. ACP is currently under the artistic leadership of pianist Elizabeth Pridgen, performing mixed-ensemble chamber repertoire ranging from traditional masterworks and virtuosic salon works, to world premieres by American composers. The group founded and directs the national Rapido! Composition Contest to foster the creation of new chamber music. •
by Mark Gresham | 28 MAR 2017I’ve stated on previous occasions that Atlanta’s suburbs and exurbs are offering up some excellent classical chamber music programs for aficionados, if only the audiences will take the time to discover them. One of the consistent venues for that experience is the Bailey Performance Center’s 691-seat Morgan Hall, located on the main campus of Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, about 25 miles from midtown Atlanta, straight up I-75 and hang a left at the Chastain Rd. exit and you’re right at the edge of the campus. Hang a right at the next intersection, Frey Rd. then follow the signs to Bailey – easiest (at least what I do) is to turn left at the last light before the bridge (Campus Loop Rd.), and when you get into the roundabout, the Bailey parking lot is at about 9 o’clock.
Just over a week ago, on Monday, March 20, I drove up to KSU to hear a delightful recital by violinist Helen Hwaya Kim and pianist Julie Coucheron. They opened with an early Beethoven work, his Violin Sonata No. 1 in D major, Op.12 No. 1, which gives a little more precedence to the piano part, but is still a good vehicle for both performers. Kim and Coucheron gave it a crisp, energized performance that suited its classical demeanor.
They followed the Beethoven with Suite in the Old Style (1972) by Alfred Schnittke, a 20th-century Soviet-German composer. The keyboard part of this Suite may be performed on either piano or harpsichord. In this instance, Coucheron played piano, but the music’s charming “modern-antique” character shone forth even when played on modern instruments.
After intermission came a cluster of smaller works with a more “popular classics” flair. First came Romanza Andaluza, the first of the two Danzas españolas, Op. 22, by Pablo de Saraste, a notable Spanish violinist-composer of the Romantic-era. It was followed by Méditation by Jules Massenet, originally an orchestral entr’acte from Act II of his opera, Thaïs. The tune became immensely popular on its own and remained a canonical part of “popular classical” repertoire as late as the 1960s, thus many transcriptions, like this one for violin and piano, are readily available.
Kim and Coucheron concluded the concert on a Latin-American theme with Le Grand Tango by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla. Originally for cello and piano, it exemplifies Piazzolla nuevo tango, and works just as well in this version for violin and piano. The title is most commonly seen in French, rather than the Spanish (El gran tango), because it was published in Paris. Although a single movement, the music is in three sections. In the first, strong tango rhythms are dominant, while the second is freer and song-like. The final section is more eclectic, with some humor, and offered up many challenges – handily addressed by the performers – as it rollicked to its conclusion.
It may feel like a long drive from Atlanta, given the traffic typical of I-75, but the trip is worth it. If you want to avoid the expressway, or if you are coming from Marietta, you can take US 41 and (again simplest) turn right on McCollum Parkway. When McCollum turns left at Duncan Rd., just keep going straight and you’re on the west end of Chastain Rd. From this direction, turn left on Frey Rd. just before I-75 and you’re good.
If you can’t get away for the evening for a live concert, KSU also streams live a number of concerts on the internet. During previous week, that’s how I “attended” chamber concerts by the Summit Trio (violinist Helen Kim again, with cellist Charae Krueger and pianist Robert Henry) as well as a recital by flutist Christina Smith with Robert Henry as pianist. What I’ve seen so far of KSU’s streaming is of high quality, both audio and video. In absence of being right there in Morgan Hall, it has proven a rather credible next best option. •