Little Art and Little Music
by Jan Jezioro
The Buffalo Chamber Players go miniature
For the final concert of their season on Wednesday May 20 at 7:30pm at the Buffalo Seminary on Bidwell Parkway, the Buffalo Chamber Players have decided that it’s best to miniaturize. A collaborative effort with Buffalo visual artist Gerald Mead, the event will explore miniatures in music and art. The musicians commissioned Mead, an award winning artist who creates small scale, photographic and found material collages and assemblages, to create collages that chronicle the BCP’s residency at Buffalo Seminary. He used musical scores and other material such as invitations, tickets, programs, marketing materials, reviews, and artifacts provided by the musicians to create his collages. According to the BCP “each individual work exists as a microcosmic archive of the ensemble’s history and the broad spectrum of their performances over the years.” The works are for sale and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Buffalo Chamber Players.
The BCP have supported the creation of new works for chamber ensemble through their annual international Call-for-Scores program for several years. This year’s winning works by Cheryl Frances-Hoad (England), Andrew List (Boston, MA) and Tomasz Skweres (Poland), selected from the nearly 400 works submitted, will be making their area premieres.
Works by three area composers are on the program, including those of composers-in-residence Rob Deemer and Caroline Mallonée. The Austin, Texas based surrealist painter Julie Speed inspired Deemer, associate professor of composition at Fredonia, to compose Speedvisions for string quartet in 2006. “Julie’s unique ability to create images that were at once recognizable and pleasantly disturbing had interested me for some time and when the opportunity presented itself to compose a work based on her paintings, I jumped at the chance and created a four-movement work Speedvisions. The individual movements are general interpretations of each painting, and while the other three movements ‘Tea,’ ‘Military Science,’ and ‘Diminuendo’ have been received well in performances, the second movement of the work has always garnered the most attention. ‘The Grand Dragon Crossing the River Styx on His Way to Hell’ is glorious in its directness and pulls no punches with its subject matter. With a nod towards Charles Ives, I have interweaved several slave and protest songs (including “Hallelujah - I’m A-Travelin’” and “I’m on My Way to the Freedom Land”) together with a slave owner’s song and an ostinato pattern fashioned from “We Shall Overcome.” The movement is one of the most visceral of my works, but with enough tongue in the cheek to not become overbearing.
“I’ve been very busy as of late,” says Deemer, having written a total of six choral works over the last six months, including two for Buffalo-based Harmonia, a silent film score for the Syracuse International Film Festival.”
During the last couple of years, compositions by Caroline Mallonée have been appearing on local concert programs far more often than those of any other locally based composer who is not on the faculty of a college or university, and with very good reason, since she has demonstrated a remarkable ability to consistently compose works that are immediately accessible while being intellectually interesting. “When I heard the theme for this spring’s BCP concert was ‘Miniatures and Collages’ I was very excited,” says the composer. “I’ve been working on a large project, String Tunes, for the last eight years, and many of the pieces in the set are miniatures. It has been hard to know how to program them—some are only a minute long—so I am thrilled that BCP will be able to offer world premieres of six solos from String Tunes. They also will be playing a new trio, Bidwell, written for the occasion, and inspired by the artwork of Gerald Mead. Since his collages often bring together different textures and colors, I wanted to create a musical collage that juxtaposed different textures and colors. After a brief introduction, the three instruments (two violins and a viola) create a collage of different timbres layered on top of each other. All seven of the pieces to be presented by the BCP are world premieres.”
Carrie Magin, an assistant professor of composition at Houghton College, debuts on this series with Sit, Christie, a short choral work based on a text from the last stanza of “Conditor alme Siderum” (Creator of the Stars of Night), an anonymous 7th century Advent text. Magin subsequently transcribed the work for string quartet, and that version that will be performed on this program.
The BCP will offer what appears to be the area premiere of the 1978 String Quartet No.6, the final quartet of George Rochberg. Rochberg enjoyed academic success in the post-war period, composing austere serial works, but following the accidental death of his son in 1963, Rochberg felt that he was unable to use this compositional method to work out his grief. Luckily for classical music lovers, he returned to using more traditional methods with dramatically effective results. His third string quartet was the breakout work that allowed him to reach a much larger audience, employing an approach that he subsequently used in his 6th quartet, which includes a movement of variations on the famous Canon in D by Pachabel.
Tickets: $15/5 student. Information: www.buffalochamberplayers.org
Buffalo Bach Project at Pausa
The Buffalo Bach Project will be at the Pausa Art House at 19 Wadsworth in Allentown on Thursday May 21 at 8pm. The young musicians: Maria Lindsey, soprano, Megan Kyle, oboe and English horn, Katie Weissman, cello, and Michael McNeil, keyboard, will offer a program that includes selections from many works by Johannes Sebastian Bach, interspersed with 20th century works that reflect the master’s influence, such as Webern’s Three Pieces for cello and piano, Cyril Scott’s Idyllic Fantasy for soprano, oboe and cello, Scelsi’s Ixor, for oboe solo, as well as two works by the French mystic composer Oliver Messiaen, Louange a l’eternite de Jesus for cello and piano, and Vocalise-Étude, for soprano and piano.
Tickets: $7; students: $5. Information: www.pausaarthouse.com
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