Music in Time kicks off with interesting mix
By JENNI JOHNSON
Music in Time, the Spoleto series directed by John Kennedy, offered an interesting mix of pieces at the Simons Center Recital Hall on Saturday to a moderately full house.
Kennedy, as always a genial and informative host, gave a short introduction to all four works. The first offering was a charming little piece by Thomas Ades, "Francois Couperin-Les Baricades Mysterieuses." Written in 1994, "Mysterious Barricades" is replete with catchy tunes (can you believe it?). The small ensemble of clarinets, cello, violin and bass seemed at times to be a bit out of tune, but the work didn't suffer badly from these momentary lapses and it all resolved happily and actually very harmonically.
"Arc of Life (Lebensbogen), Op. 234" by Ernst Krenek was rather long, but interesting. It has 12 movements beginning with appropriately enough, "To start with," and ending with "Exit, gracefully." Krenek wrote it in 1981. His use of plucked strings in the first movement began a witty and amusing series of movements with the xylophone and other instruments adding to the general lighthearted beginning. "Conflict," with muted trumpets and trombone, bass and xylophone, dissonantly segued into "With some emotion." "Serenity" made use of piano, cello and violin to create a calm after the conflict that was quite lovely. If anyone in the audience, thought it was smooth sailing from here on out, they needed to batten down the hatches for "Shock and solace." Crashing cymbals and percussion made a deafening din and certainly got the desired effect out of this reviewer. In "Exit, gracefully," the bassoon played a jazzy tune and the rest of the players joined in a romantic, almost sultry ending to Krenek's "Arc of Life."
"Magnum Ignotum" (1994) by Gija Kantscheli made use of pre-recorded music which offered chant and a 1940s swing singers group, among other things. The title, "Greatest Unknown," refers to the composer's appreciation for the beauty of traditional folk music. The piece is a blending of dissonance and lyric melodies that is in keeping with Kantscheli's view that Romanticism is essential for faith and life.
Last on the program was Louis "Moondog" Hardin's "As The Earth Turns" (1976). Hardin, a blind savant who hung around 54th Street and 6th Avenue in New York in a Viking outfit, died in 1999. The title is a metaphor for the way the piece sounds, Kennedy said. The piece is really a kind of jazz fugue, and just when it might have become repetitive, it neatly ended. The audience seemed to enjoy this brief piece as well as the members of the Spoleto Festival Orchestra who played it.