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Music of the Future at Bard Now

Music review
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Mon Apr 10th, 2017

Bridget Bertoldi, Sergiu Cebotari, John Belk, Matthew Woodard

At the Lázló Bitó Conservatory Building a program of contemporary music composed by current undergraduate students was performed under the title of Music Alive! The program was curated by faculty members Blair McMillen and George Tsontakis who provided a brief introduction.

Blair McMillen sat at the piano stool to play “Waterfall/Rapids” by Haydn Miller, a junior at Bard. Miller, a student of Joan Tower, began playing the saxophone in fifth grade, and now defines himself as a composer. In two parts with lilting arpeggio runs, what appeared to begin as a classical composition, it effortlessly molted into jazz running to the horizon. That transition was so smooth, it was a revelation. There was a little rhythmic piano knocking that I didn’t care for, but here is a talented composer from which we will hear more in the future.

Jackson Spargur’s poetically entitled “Ticktall Clockfall” toyed with mysterious and haunting rhythms as it achieved, both in upper and lower registers, strange yet attractive harmonies no one has ever heard. One might think of Icelandic or Finnish music, yet it was not that—it was something new. Victor Toth on bass clarinet, John Belk on cello, and Alex Hamme on piano achieved blended mood and arrived at a conclusion that was more than satisfactory.

Corey Chang’s “Pulsate” for a dozen instruments was conducted by George Tsontakis. This piece offered program music for Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” This piece magically conjured the manic narcissism of Poe’s hysteric irony. Corey’s works have been performed by the New Haven Symphony Orchestra as well as Da Capo Chamber Players. He has an imaginative gift for musical coloring.

“Nonexstet” by Christopher Beroes-Haigis appeared to be a satire on war, a subject, conceptually speaking, that might (one would think) be inclined to cliché, yet I found it full of dramatic suspense culminating in the pregnant silence of despair. Christopher, who played the cello that gave foundation to the piece, studies under cellist Peter Wiley and this certainly shows. Despite the bitter subject, I found this piece extremely arresting.

Luke Koening set three poems of Emily Dickinson with tenor Vitalis Im and Luke himself at piano with Kaila Piscatelli, who played exceptionally well, on cello. Copland and a dozen others have set some of Dickinson’s poems to chamber music, yet these particular poems I don’t believe have been set before. It was a pleasure to hear these poems and I was particularly taken with the last one, “Patience—has a quiet Outer.”

Luke Haaksma, a first year student, composed “Upswing” which concluded the concert. Amid much percussion, the flute played by Bridget Bertoldi was prominent, as well as the violin of Matthew Woodard. This piece appeared to wander an unfamiliar landscape of sound and featured some minimalist solos, mostly in the higher register.  

If someone were to ask me, where they could hear new cutting-edge classical music, I would not know where to direct them until now. Students at Bard are creating the future now.