The 21C Afterhours concert in Temerty Theatre last night featured a candle lit performance by a varied ensemble of conservatory students conducted by Brian Current. Brian did a great job of introducing the music; contextualizing it and suggesting what the audience might listen for. That could maybe be done more often with complex contemporary music.
The first piece was Bekah Simms’ Foreverdark. It’s a ten minute concertino for amplified cello, ensemble and electronics playing homage to heavy metal. It’s scored for a quite a large group including strings, brass, woodwinds and lots of percussion including a drum kit. It starts out very abrasively then becomes somewhat more lyrical and the then the texture lightens up but it’s still pretty complex. David Liam Roberts was the soloist and did an excellent job.
Tyshawn Sorey’s Sentimental Shards was much more lightly scored; strings, piano and tuned percussion. This was all about texture again with very light textures to start but becoming denser as the piece went on. The inspiration is Duke Ellington’s Sentimental Lady and there are echoes of that and of John Adams’ deconstruction of it.
The second part of the programme involved works by two giants of post WW2 music; Pierre Boulez and R. Murray Schafer. Boulez’ 1984 piece Dérives I is a very short piece manipulating six chords in quite an austere way and ending abruptly. It’s an interesting example of the more relaxed (relatively) late Boulez when he was doing more conducting than composing.
R. Murray Shafer’s 1976 piece Hymn to Night for soprano, ensemble and live and prerecorded electronics is fascinating. It sets a sensuous and mystical text (in German) by Novalis. There are recordings of Aeolian harp blended in with the live instrumentals and the soprano is echoed with four and six second delays. It’s actually quite lovely. The soprano part was sung with great skill, beauty and feeling by GGS student Ella Jonas Farlinger.
It’s really impressive that an ensemble of young musicians can pull off fine performances of such complex music and bodes well for the future. As always, Brian Current displayed a clear grasp of music that not everyone “gets”. Well worth staying up late for!