Just because violinist Jennifer Koh and flutist Claire Chase both spend a great deal of time playing contemporary works -- and playing them fiercely -- is no reason to doubt that either could play the standard repertoire just as brilliantly. Still, it was fascinating to hear Koh play a heart-stopping Brahms Violin Concerto with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Chase making a Bach sonata sound spontaneous and brimming with life on the same day. Jacques Lacombe, the music-director designate of the NJSO, and his interesting programming ideas will surely be the topic of a future blog post in the not-distant future.
And why, in the short space allotted to Claire's review, did I opt to devote a whole sentence to the fellow who wrote the program notes? Mainly because Whit Bernard, the writer in question, wrote this about Franco Donatoni's Fili, which followed the Bach sonata on the program:
There is an almost Baroque excess to this piece: music that first strikes the listener for its sparse pointillism is suddenly smothered in frenetic ornament, only to be exposed again in its naked simplicity.
Slightly techy, but easy enough to follow. Then, this:
This textural schizophrenia demands a tight, virtuosic collaboration between performers. Watch Claire and Jacob communicate each gesture -- taking turns in the lead, triggering one another's responses, angling for the end to each tightly wound silence.
Rather than leaving us to wonder whether we've parsed what we read before, Bernard gives us something tangible to watch out for: the way the two players manage to cue and take prompts from one another while executing their own treacherously challenging parts. Then, a few lines later, the real coup:
A few weeks ago, Claire and Jacob performed the piece at an outreach event for elementary school students. The children's responses brilliantly capture the shimmering, frenetic texture of this music: "Popcorn! exclaimed one student, but another cut him off, shouting, "NO! Pop ROCKS!" Others heard animals, citing everything from "angry pretty butterflies" to a "waltz with a hippo." Who needs music theorists, anyway?
Sly, charming and accurate -- and at the same time, Bernard points out that children listen to new music with far less prejudice than do most adults. The program notes are full of similarly quotable passages. Nicely done.
A review of new albums by three category-defying groups: Clogs, Slow Six and Redhooker (pictured). Each group blurs an increasingly meaningless boundary between contemporary classical music and alternative rock; each disc, in its own way, is more or less a departure for the group in question.
Left on the cutting room floor, perhaps for the best, is a phrase that concluded the opening paragraph in early drafts of the essay: "...you're almost grateful that Internet search engines are replacing perplexed store clerks as the chief source of consumer guidance." And because this was putatively a classical CD review, likening singer Shara Worden to Maria Malibran stayed in, but a Pitchfork reference came out.
As usual, I'm providing web links here for your shopping convenience. (Note that I'm not an affiliate and do not profit from any sales.) But since these three discs -- and, for that matter, the complete discographies of these groups -- are available for streaming on Lala, I've also assembled a custom playlist with representative tracks from each album.
The Jazz Journalists Association has just announced its nominations for the 2010 JJA Jazz Awards have just been announced, and congratulations are due to saxophonist, bandleader and composer Steve Lehman, who earned three nods this year: composer of the year, record of the year (for the exhilarating Travail, Transformation and Flow) and alto saxophonist of the year. Lehman faces stiff competition in each category; still, receiving so much acknowledgment from the JJA's members is in itself quite an achievement. (You can see a complete list of nominees here.)
Quite possibly the only jazz composer whose work attempts to creatively reconcile lessons learned from Jackie McLean, Anthony Braxton, Tristan Murail and the Wu-Tang Clan, Lehman is also involved with contemporary classical music. Currently he's a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, where he teaches in the music department.
A chance to sample this side of Lehman's work arrives on Saturday, April 24 at 8 p.m., when the JACK Quartet presents the world premiere of his Nos Revi Nella during a Columbia Composers event at St. Peter's Church (Chelsea), 346 West 20th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. The program also includes the premiere of Victor Adán's String Quartet No. 1 and Zosha Di Castri's Sulla Mappa Concava;a new piece by Wet Ink Ensemble artistic director Alex Mincek; and Psalterion by Mario Diaz de León.
You can follow Lehman's doings on Twitter, and hear Travail, Transformation and Flow on Lala.
And we're back, after the longest break I've ever taken from blogging. Let's not dwell on the reasons why I haven't posted anything since late December; suffice it to say that for the first few months I was overly busy with work and moving to a new apartment, and during the last month or so I've been, well, fretting over how to get restarted.
Blog every single review and feature missed since December individually? Lump them all together in a single catch-up post? Redesign the entire site? Seriously, worrying about this created its own sort of blogging paralysis.
Ridiculous, I know.
But here we are again, thanks to a performance I saw on Sunday that was so huge, so profound and so moving that I had to post my Times review: Morton Feldman's String Quartet No. 2. The six-hour opus was magnificently played by an excellent string quartet representing the new-music collective Ne(x)tworks during a preview of the new downtown Brooklyn space Issue Project Room will one day occupy.
One note I didn't mention is that the entire performance was streamed live on Q2, the excellent and adventurous Internet radio channel operated by WNYC/WQXR. If you missed the webcast, keep an eye on the Q2 site: the entire performance was recorded and will be posted for streaming shortly.
(And those missed reviews and features? Watch for an omnibus catch-up post soon.)