CONTACT! Live Blogging; “Songs From Solomon’s Garden”

9:27PM . . .  Schaefer and Gilbert are speaking prior to this last piece, with text in Hebrew from the Megillah . . . the great Thomas Hampson singing for the premier, Pintscher must be ecstatic . . . I would be; man-crush on Hampson is totally acceptable . . . Hampson even taller than Gilbert, okay no more gossip, time for music . . . opens a capella . . . the music is quiet, bracing, astringent, a bit spectral in it’s idiom . . . mysterious, evocative timbres, clouds of sound . . . apologies I can’t follow text and comment on what Pintscher says about the words with his music, too many things to do! . . . langorous feeling has now become agitated and intense as the text sings of the objects of desire; this desire is fervid, aggressive, even angry, perhaps self-consuming . . . chattering oboe brings us back to a point of exhalation, but not relaxation . . . Pintscher has established an underlying tension that is quite powerful, I am quite actively interested in hearing how he resolves it, or even if he bothers to . . . Hampson really committed to the music, it’s new so clearly cannot be totally incorporated, but his concentration on the part is balanced with real ideas about expression and interpretation, such an impressive musician . . . the instruments, especially woodwinds, are now commenting more actively on the singing, the idea seems to be taking place very much in an internal, mental space, this is very much like an extended operatic monologue, with the character searching himself, it’s dramatic and gradually becoming ever more gripping . . . a short, echt-Romantic string line there, and the uncanny sound of a wah-ing trumpet, I’m thinking of Berio now . . . this is music where the ear, and listening, must take some moments to adapt, but now it sounds natural, logical and is developing real power . . . quiet yet intense, Hampson in falsetto, string harmonics and a whispering growl from the contrabassoon, don’t want to breath and miss any moment . . . wow, this part is so good it could go on forever . . . and what a way to end!  An alluring, entrancing work, full of secrets, really needs to be heard again and again.

Quite a concert, different and as impressive as the first one in the series, probably tighter and freer playing with Gilbert conducting, a great range of music and determined focus. You can still hear these pieces in concert, Saturday night at the Metropolitan Museum, and you can tune in next week to Q2 for the rebroadcast.  Now, time for a beer . . .

CONTACT! Live Blogging; “Detailed Instructions”

8:36PM – As the musicians change for the Muhly piece, John Schaefer has a few words on stage with Magnus Lindberg . . . Lindberg is talking about the importance and legacy of what he calls the “sinfonietta” world, which is essentially the chamber orchestra, colorful but small ensembles, cheaper to run, flexible, great for contemporary composers . . . Muhly and Schaefer are talking about why he replaced violins with violas . . . hey, I like the viola, leave it alone, Schaefer, if it’s good enough for Mozart and the Symphony of Psalms, it’s good enough for you, buddy . . . Beguiling start to this piece, a gentle, short lyric over an odd-metered, shuffling pulse in the percussion, notes rising in the instruments, working together at times and bumping into each other as well . . . syncopated eighth note pulses in the woodwinds, like what David Lang does, with a hint of a long-toned horn melody . . . basic rhythmic pulse is being passed around, as well as this intriguing, mournful melodic gesture, rising in short intervals, almost keening higher than falling in a large interval . . . the music seems to be in a constant state of transition, which is something that music can do so well as an art form . . . now the textures are thinning out, more dissonance is coming in, emotions are attenuating . . .

. . . 2nd movement; slow, quiet, ringing, a simple line in the piccolo, sounds almost like a Lou Harrison symphony . . . a full-fledged piccolo solo over slowly shifting bed of music, limpid sound shapes drifting right and left across the aural horizon . . . quite lovely this . . . this is really a pleasure to listen to, building beautiful textures, sensations and sonorities . . . also has that thing John Adams does so well, the yearning, willful melody over a rich bed of sound, the sound is sympathetic but they seem to occupy different worlds, an interesting idea of coordination and society, one’s place in the universe, or the actual location of one’s navel, found while gazing at it . . . tuba burbles, english horn sighs, bucolic final bars . . .

. . . 3rd movement . . . quarter note pulse, kicked around with a few extra eighth notes . . . piano pulses and arpeggiates, flutes spell out chords, clarinets chug underneath . . . this is Muhly as post-Minimalist, combing procedures from Reich and Adams . . . the music is clearly made here but seems to have a little less focus, as if he’s sure he wants the notes laid out the way they are, but not sure why there should be any notes at all . . . structurally, he’s recalling the first movement now, binding things together with purpose . . . ends a little abruptly . . . lots of good music in that piece, some lovely, complex expressions.  Take a bow, Nico . . .

. . . and . . . intermission.  Be back in a bit, peeps and tweeps and sheeps.

CONTACT! Live Blogging; “These Particular Circumstances”

8:13PM – Concertmaster takes the stage, ensemble tunes . . . Gilbert takes a bow . . . and we’re off . . .

. . . Briefly clangorous opening gesture, followed by quiet little turns in the winds, like Lutoslawski’s ad lib music . . . music builds to some brief moments both of intensity and sonority . . . the music is quiet colorful, with a really expressive language and a commitment to dramatic gestures . . . keep thinking of Lutoslawski, a great and important master of making music with a chaotic aspect yet still in complete overall control of his materials and structures, and very fine example to emulate . . . now the instruments trade off a rapidly rising run, which turns into a quote from The Planets, a charming surprise . . . rapid, bright and lively . . . now there’s a slightly boozy quality to the music the strings (a quartet with bass) are playing, and I’m always in favor of that . . . fascinating orchestration here, trills, chattering and percussion, has a real physical quality, you can almost smell and taste it . . . dialogue between muted trumpet and cello in high register . . . music is now pensive, going effectively through a variety of emotional states, neither rushing nor lingering . . . the writing is imaginative and active while feeling organic, never arbitrary . . . first bit of post-Minimal language, interesting that it’s taken so long to appear in a piece by an American composer just over 30 . . . two fairly young people leaving, Philistines! . . .  no, I didn’t shout . . . this part is making a deliberate, fanfare like statement, feels like a coda . . . good call on that coda, if I may say so.  Generous and deserved applause, very well-crafted piece, really holds the attention.  Nice to hear this kind of contemporary neo-Romanticism.  Playing by the Philharmonic ensemble seemed totally sharp, confident and controlled.

CONTACT! Live Blogging, 1

Nicely mixed crowd, young and old coming in.  Haven’t spotted any of my fellow cranks . . . er, critics tonight.  There’s more Andriessen at Carnegie tonight, of course.  I had been planning on attending the Andriessen concert at Zankel Saturday night, but then this happened:

But that’s what us live bloggers are for, to fill the gaps.

Maestro Gilbert has now taken the stage to address some remarks to the audience.  The gist: he’s excited about leading a concert of contemporary music as part of the New York Philharmonic.  John Schaefer is offering some opening remarks as well. The program is as follows:

  • Sean Sheperd; These Particular Circumstances (a seven section work)
  • Nico Muhly; Detailed Instructions, for orchestra
  • Matthias Pintscher; Songs from Solomon’s Garden; featuring Thomas Hampson singing

Sean Sheperd is now onstage to talk about his piece, and there’s a bit of flirting with feedback.  Next post will be as the music is playing.

CONTACT! Live Blogging: Prelude

Ensconced in a cozy balcony seat, watching people file in. . . About fifteen minutes until the stated curtain time. . . Musicians warming up onstage include harp, vibes, clarinet, bassoon and cello. . . no way to know what they are playing, but I keep hearing fragments of what sounds like Le Sacre du Printemps . . . but that’s actually not for a few more weeks during the Russian Stravinsky Festival

Adventurers Of The Intertubes

The second set of the New York Philharmonic’s CONTACT! series is going on this Friday and Saturday, and so it’s time once again to point out the interesting and imaginative things they are doing to develop new music, new audiences and new media.

As teasers, the Phil has a set of videos of those involved, composers and performers alike (and it’s notable that both Maestro Gilbert and Artist in Residence Thomas Hampson are dedicating their efforts to the concerts), talking about the music and what to listen for:

The Phil Twitter feed is also offering ongoing insights into what’s going on in rehearsal, which is like overhearing just enough to be interested in hearing more.

If you can’t make the concert, tune into this site Friday at around 8:00PM, as the Phil has invited humble writers like myself to live-blog from the concert.  There won’t be any audio, but in lieu of the standard method of mulling over my notes and memory for a few days and writing an analytical review, I’ll be describing the music as it goes along, and responding in the moment – this is brand new work which I’ll be hearing for the first time.  Then follow up with Q2 next week, when they’ll be broadcasting the concert recording.  The internet may be killing the music industry, but music making is alive and well.

New Music New York

I saw the New York Philharmonic’s CONTACT! concert Saturday night at the Metropolitan Museum and will have a review of it soon at MusicWeb International’s Seen and Heard (the holidays do slow down the publication process a bit), but can say in brief that it was impressive all around, and you can hear it for yourself at Q2, which will be streaming a recording of it at 7PM on Tuesday, 12/22 and at 2PM Sunday, 12/27. Unfortunately you will be missing the theatrical element of Arthur Kampela’s piece, but you’ll still hear a lot of good music. It’s incredibly important and exciting that the orchestra of New York City is promoting new music again, in what is arguably the capital of new music and creative experimentation.