Joan Tower and Blair McMillan curated a program of composers in their 30s at Bard’s Lazlo Bito Building.
Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw’s “Entr’acte, for string quartet” (2011) opened with Haydnesque minuet themes fractured into false starts and dead ends that somehow managed to re-align into a variety of fun-house mirrors. Gitta Markó and Valory Hight on violins with Joseph Burke on viola and Emily Munstedt on cello delicately navigated spaces between minimalist vortexes. As well as being an accomplished violinist, Shaw also doubles as a vocal singer in Roomful of Teeth, a cutting edge vocal group that is so much in demand that she had to cancel at Bard to perform elsewhere.
Metal Works (Part I), for piano and electronics (2014) by Nina Young offered a dialectic between the masculine aggressiveness of metals and a feminine, lyrical piano played by Adam Zsolt Szokalay. Electronic recordings of varied metals under stress provoked lyrical counterpoint, mostly along the higher register of the piano. While this description may sound abrasive, this nuanced composition brooded on the chameleon-like qualities of patience.
By-By Huey (2014) by Ted Hearne presented a musical portrait of Black Panther Party co-founder, Huey Newton who had acquired a doctorate in sociology and was murdered at 47 in Oakland by a gangland thug (1989). As portrait and elegy this composition offered dynamic contrasts with a foregrounded piano. The piece ended with tragic halt of the six-piece orchestra where Matthew Woodard’s violin stood out, yet the sudden conclusion of the piece highlighted the murder: with the piano etching out lyrical memorial under the expert fingers of Alexander Hamme.
I Will Learn to Love a Person (2013) by Christopher Cerrone set poetry by Tao Lin, a young Chinese female poet. The translated text consisted of nearly one-syllable words (one of the great advantages in Anglo-Saxon roots for composers). The poetry was highly imitative of e.e.cummings. While the poetry exuded some of the intimate charm of cummings by humorously contradicting itself, its stream-of-consciousness bore the revolutionary burden of solipsism. Cerrone imparted more drama than the sinuous lines appeared to freight, however, I thought the rather high xylophone notes which were meant to support the higher reaches of mezzo-soprano Teresa Buchholz sometimes competed with her voice to the disadvantage of both, and that the musical thrust was more successful when it supplied background rather than parallel sounds.
Last, but not least, was LIgNEouS1, for marimba and string quartet (2010) by Andy Akiho (depicted in teaser photo). Jonathan Collazo on marimba was the soul of this rhythmic masterpiece where harmonic lines vectored and flourished in a bouquet exfoliating with fireworks. I was especially attracted by the cello line played by Kaila Piscatelli that in turn was supportive, dramatic, and even humorous. Alexander van der Veen firmly and expressively led the quartet on his violin and with solid support on viola from Rosemary Nelis musical lines converged in a satifying climax. Akiho is a star of his generation deserving more exposure.