Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The American Composers Orchestra Plays It Unsafe

The American Composers Orchestra has taken to doing what the New York Phil has, offering recordings of their concerts online – and why not? Their Playing It Unsafe program at Carnegie Hall from February, 2009 with Jeffrey Milarsky conducting is unselfconsciously accessible, yet much of it is cutting-edge, and the ensemble turns in a characteristically inspired performance.

The concert opens with Anna Clyne’s Tender Hooks, percussive swirl with distant martial allusions eventually giving way to a suspensefully punctuated tone poem. From there, the orchestra methodically drives to a crescendo with piano and percussion, followed by an eerily starlit little piano waltz that quotes liberally from the Moonlight Sonata – and ends cold, mid-phrase. With echoes of John Williams or Gustav Holst, Charles Norman Mason’s Additions is an austerely staccato, marionettish dance bookended by water-drip percussion. Dan Trueman’s Silicon/Carbon: An Anti-Concerto-Grosso begins with a seemingly unrelated allusions to Appalachian fiddling and then offers spaciously horizontal, Uranian ambience punctuated by occasional percussion and bell-like tones, a handful of crescendos to restart the suspense and a clever rhythmic tradeofff between the percussion section and the entire orchestra toward the end.

Overture and Ballet Music from Armide, by Jonathan Dawe works disconnected, overlapping passages that in places seem to parody generic classical crescendos and percussion breaks, hinting at florid but never going there. There’s a jarring vocal interlude that does nothing to enhance it, but the “passacaille” that closes the work vividly sets a multitude of matter-of-fact phrases entering the picture and then disappearing in turn rather than stepping all over each other, a trick from the world of dub reggae. The final piece, Ned McGowan’s Bantammer Swing features his own contrabass flute for some intriguing tonalities. Like the Clyne and Trueman pieces, it’s cinematic, the most suspenseful work here. The first movement moves steadily and pensively up and down; the brooding andante sostenuto of the second is the most gripping part of this album, sheets of noise finally rising ominously as the brass exchanges uneasy flutters. It ends on an unexpectedly playful, genuinely funny note with swooping motifs, a couple of jagged bass solos and a fun little rondo to wind it out. The whole album is streaming at instantencore, a very smart marketing move since a listen all the way through is the best advertisement this entertaining performance could possibly have.

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March 19, 2011 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment