Monday, October 4, 2010

CPH Happy Hour and Cleveland Chamber Symphony: Music That Dares to Explore

I found myself in University Circle for two events this evening -- starting with another Cleveland Play House Happy Hour and finished with a Cleveland Chamber Symphony Concert.

Part 1. The Happy Hour. At Uptowne in University Circle (on the corner of Mayfield and Euclid), I walked into a standing-room only bar. Some familiar faces from the last Happy Hour, and similarly good--tending toward better--appetizers. Good conversation. Generally a fun event, but in keeping with my policy* of not reporting personal conversations there's not much else to say. One major difference: The sales pitch (from a gentleman who's name I did not catch) was even shorter than Michael Bloom's previous record-holder.

Part 2. The Concert. After excusing myself from the Happy Hour I made it to the Cleveland Chamber Symphony's concert at the Music Settlement. The program cover declares "Music that Dares to Explore"...
Man: Maroon (2005)
Mumford: a garden of flourishing paths (2008)
Stucky: Boston Fancies (1986)
Steven Smith, conductor; Sean Gabriel, flute/alto flute; Andrew Pongracz, precussion; Stuart Raleigh, piano; Susan Britton, violin; Laura Shuster, viola; Heidi Albert, cello.

"New Music" is a quite distinct category. Despite a name that implies primarily a temporal focus, the structure of these pieces is distinct from most music including traditional classical structures. It's music that I struggle with -- though not so much as, say, country or metal -- but music that doesn't, as a whole suck, me in. The three pieces on tonight's concert were all relatively short and moved at a brisk pace.

As part of Cleveland Chamber Symphony's Meet the Composer series, the composers for the first two pieces on the program were in attendance. Fang "Mindy" Man's Maroon was inspired by sounds she associated with the color, and she hesitated to comment on what she was trying to evoke, instead wanting the audience to let the music work on their imaginations as it may. To me, perhaps predisposed based on the piece's program note and my recent return from Las Vegas the beginning of the piece evoked images of the desert -- Arizona to be specific -- but that imagery faded as the end of the piece approached.

Jeffrey Mumford's a garden of flourishing paths consisted of eight individual and very short movements inspired by the West Garden Court of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC -- perhaps not having a visual context of that garden, none of the movements was long enough to appreciate individually and as a whole it didn't move me.

Finally, Stucky's Boston Fancies--seven movements alternating in tempo. The first movement (Ritornello 1.) struck me, of all thing, as a film noir overture, and the remainder of the movements flowed naturally.

Of course, the performances were well-executed, including some unconventional playing... and it's worth remembering that even Beethoven was new at this point. Support new music now and who know what will be being said 100 years from the present.


*-Though I tend to cringe when referred to as a "critic" or "journalist" -- titles I'm wholly unworthy of I do have a set of ethics guidelines that I try to adhere to. One of them is that I get consent before blogging about the contents of any one-on-one conversation.

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