Sunday, May 29, 2011

eighth blackbird: Still Life (Cleveland Orchestra/Severance Hall)

Mazzoli: Still Life with Avalanche (2008)
Boulez: Derive 1 (1984)
Hurel: ...a mesure (1996)
Glass: Music in Similar Motion (1969)
Ades: Catch (1991)
Hartke: Meanwhile: Incidental Music to Imaginary Puppet Plays (2007)
eighth blackbird at Reinberger Chamber Hall, in Severance Hall
(Tim Munro, flutes; Michael J, Maccaferri, clarinets; Matt Albert, violin/viola; Matthew Duvall, percussion; Lisa Kaplan, piano)

While milling around the foyer before this afternoon's COYO concert a Cleveland Orchestra staffer asked me if I'd be coming back for eighth blackbird -- intentionally lowercase -- tonight. "I'm undecided" I think was my response -- I knew nothing of the group. "You should come". So I stopped by the box office to ask about the group and performance. I found out tickets were free...that changed things a bit.

So my ladyfriend -- who was working while I was gallivanting across the countryside, ahem, attending the COYO concert -- and I reassembled in the Reinberger Chamber Hall (under Severance Hall's main hall) for this evening's concert. I truly had no idea what to expect.

Opening the program was the interesting Still Life with Avalanche with a variety of energetic phrases on top of a constant, droning, bed laid by harmonicas. Boulez's Derive 1 was next up and quite different from Still Life. Throughout the piece the overall sound reminded me of a PBS network ident spot with a frustrated composer inspired by birds on power lines -- I wish I could give a YouTube link, but for the life of me I can't find it on YouTube. Rounding out the first half of the program, and I think my least favorite from the evening was Hurel's a mesure.

Throughout the first three pieces the common thread to me was that they seemed cinematic to me, apt selections to push the story of a film along, but it was my ladyfriend who observed that the lack of a discernible melody was largely what gave them that quality.

Following intermission, Philip Glass's Music in Similar Motion was my favorite with an ever evolving collection of instruments building on a repetitive structure with a generally steady and dramatic feel. It was intoxicating. The program notes remark that "as each new voice enters, there is a dramatic change in the music" -- I disagree. Change yes, but it's more of a natural evolution to the music than an seachange. Thomas Ades's Catch was an piece in which musicians were players not only of instruments but also games -- the clarinet as the outsider, could be found wandering through the hall at times.

Closing out the program was Stephen Hartke's Meanwhile: Incidental Music to Imaginary Puppet Plays. From the title, I really wanted to like the piece... and there were interesting sounds, but after Music in Similar Motion it didn't particularly hook me.


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