Like I was saying, last night I went to Contact Contemporary Music‘s “Walk on Water”, featuring the excellent saxophonist Wallace Halliday and equally excellent cellist Mary-Katherine Finch, with supporting turns from Allison Wiebe on piano (who played some thankless music very well) and Ryan Scott on percussion.
If you follow me on Twitter (or, indeed, scroll down this page, where my tweets are all posted), you will already know that I managed to review the concert in precisely 140 characters:
Chang: nice textures; Karassikov: way too subtle; Denisov: !!!; Lemay: very good; Vustin: pretty, new-agey; Leuchter: Schnittke-y & awesome.
As proud of myself as I am for getting all of that into a single tweet, I felt I should elaborate a bit more.
Walk on Water (Dorothy Chang) – some very nice textural writing for the two instruments (sax and cello). The style was a bit cautious and academic, so it felt more like an exercise in sound than anything else. I respected this piece but was not moved by it, but I would definitely like to hear more of Chang’s music.
Casus in terminus (Vadim Karassikov) – before they began to play, Wallace talked a little about this piece and how “subtle” it was. That is an understatement. It belongs to that school of new music (exemplified by the late Morton Feldman) which consists of very quiet sounds played very gently with lots of space in between. While I’m sure this work had a lot of meaning for its composer and for the players, I could not enter into it. This may have had something to do with me having to sneeze the whole time. Also a car honked outside just after the last note (it happened to be in tune with it, too!), which totally broke the mood.
Sonata for alto saxophone and violoncello (Edison Denisov) – I actually wrote a paper on Denisov back when I was in school, but I remember precisely nothing about him other than his name was Edison and he was actually from Siberia, so I was glad to hear some of his music played live. I loved loved loved this piece, especially a moment at the end of the 2nd movement – the cello was holding a high note, and the sax came in with multiphonics. It was an amazing bit of writing, and not just in the “wow, you can do that with only two instruments?” way. Denisov’s writing is very lyrical and emotional – he was great at evoking fleeting emotional states through minimal means, which is awesome. I think I need to pay for a U of T library membership so I can take out some CDs of his stuff, because I very much doubt it’s on Itunes.
Tie-break (Robert Lemay) – A very well-written short piece apparently inspired by tennis. Lemay introduced his piece, saying it was part of a larger work in progress, though being pregnant I’ve completely forgotten what the other two or three movements are going to be called. Tie-break was light and spritely and added a nice note of levity to the programme.
Musique pour l’ange – another very evocative work, so evocative that my mind kept wandering. Tonal and new-agey with lots of floaty vibraphone chords. I actually have a hard time expressing an opinion of it – it was pretty and enjoyable, but it didn’t have a lot to hang on to, if you know what I mean. Maybe a B+? I know nothing else got a letter grade.
Leuchter (Helmut Oehring) – subtitled “Kurz in Mull gestochert” or “rifling through the trash”, this work expresses musically the composer’s feelings towards noted Holocaust denier/designer of execution machines Fred A. Leuchter. Kurt Weill/Schnittke/electroacoustic. Yeah, I know I just did the new music equivalent of describing one indie band in terms of three other indie bands you’ve never heard of. Let me try it with adjectives – jangly, atonal (or maybe bi/tri-tonal – it’s hard to say), snarky, and aggressive. It was totally different from everything else on the programme and I loved it.
And as I also said on Twitter, the playing was excellent overall and I’m very glad I went.
Read Full Post »