New Music Works returns to the Rio Theatre this Saturday with a major world premiere. Canadian pianist Louis Lortie plays a big Chopin recital on Sunday in Carmel. And our Calendar this week is chock full of popular music styles and abundant theater events. The Monterey Jazz Fest announces its 2014 headliners. Scroll down for details, and to meet our Performing Arts People person of the week. (Yes, you already know and love her.)
Lark takes wing again
The Lark Quartet, for nearly three decades a leading advocate for American music and living composers, has just released Composing America (Bridge 9423) that follows their 2013 CD of three major works by Pulitzer-winner Jennifer Higdon, An Exaltation of Larks (Bridge 9379). Their newest includes five pages from John Adams’ John’s Book of Alleged Dances, William Bolcom’s setting of Billy in the Darbies, Aaron Copland’s Two Pieces for String Quartet and Paul Moravec’s Piano Quintet. These are intense and riveting readings in collaborations with percussionist Yousif Sheronick (Adams), bass/baritone Stephen Salters (Bolcom) and pianist Jeremy Denk (Moravec).
Not surprisingly the Adams dances are all about rhythms, some unique and often quite percussive and syncopated. The third of five (in this selection) is Habanera, the Cuban version of tango, with flavors of Morocco. The brief, charging fourth, Toot Nipple (the name of a character in Annie Proulx’s Postcards) is for strings alone. Bolcom’s Billy, a Lark commission, is in fact an ironic poem by Melville’s Billy Budd as he faces his fate (darbies are handcuffs), its effect heightened by Bolcom’s lean scoring. The revival of the Copland, which dates from the early and late ‘20s, makes forceful reminder of the stature of this American giant. Moravec’s classically informed quintet, composed for these artists in 2008, opens with a pushy, then spooky, skitter. The following two movements are each a third again as long, the second a thoughtful ruminating conversation between keyboard and strings that gets a little heated midstream, while the last jumps out with angular gestures and some insinuating string melodies. Plenty of virtuosity here passionately served up.
New Music Works “Here 2 Beyond” coming to the Rio Theatre
This Saturday, the NMW Ensemble will be joined by composer Timba Harris in the world premiere of his neXus1: Cascadia, a cantata for vocalist, chorus and instrumental ensemble that portrays a “musical representation of the natural environment of the Pacific Northwest with a focus on (natural) transitional processes.” In this large-scale work, Harris, who has played string instruments with NMW, surveys his subject from a wide angle look at the ecology of the forests and mountains of the Cascade range, to close-ups of the region’s fauna, from the Monarch butterfly, to the black bear as it enters hibernation, thence to the rumblings and eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. Joining the performance of this and other works by (and including) Harris are singer Lori Rivera, Michael McGushin’s Ariose Singers and the progressive rock band Secret Chiefs 3, led by Trey Spruance.
I had the opportunity to hear a recording of NMW’s last concert, “Main Drag,” at Cabrillo College and found it refreshingly original and exciting. There were three excellent world premieres: Michael McGushin’s fabulous String Quartet (two movements of a projected four movement work, from 2013), Christopher Pratorius’ four-movement Untogether, Not Apart (2014) that included some recorded whale songs, and Double Hocket (2013) by Daniel James Wolf, an American now living in Germany. Double-bass player Stan Poplin was featured soloist in some of these and other pieces—by composers Steed Cowart, John Cage and Frederic Rzewski.
Louis Lortie surveys the entire Études by Chopin
Sponsored by the Carmel Music Society, Lortie returns to Carmel after a long absence to play one of his signature programs, the Chopin Études, all 24 of the Opp 10 and 25 sets, plus the three “Nouvelles” Études. Click on the display ad mini (left) for details. Click here to read pianist Byron Janis on the Chopin Etudes in the Wall Street Journal.
Lineup Announced for the 57th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival
Headliners for the weekend of Sept. 19-21 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, and selected other venues, include Herbie Hancock, The Roots, Gary Clark Jr., Michael Feinstein, Christian McBride, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Charles Lloyd, Jason Moran, Robert Glasper Experiment, Lisa Fischer, Marcus Miller, Booker T. Jones, Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band, Davina & The Vagabonds, Billy Childs, and many more. Arena and Grounds packages go on Sale May 12; Single Day tickets on June 26.
In this week’s PAMB
Scott MacClelland, editor