Rehearsing Harmonic Fields by Liviu Marinescu
Well, it's been a great year filled with new friends, new projects, and lots of new music! Now that the 2012-2013 academic year has come and gone I thought I would take some time to share just a few of the memorable pieces I've heard live performances of, and, in one case, performed. I find that musicians are sometimes the worst at listening to music. We’re so busy practicing and immersing ourselves in the creation of our art that we probably don’t spend enough time going to concerts and enjoying live music or even listening to recordings of great music. I’m certainly guilty of this. However, I find that sometimes the most effective method of artistic rejuvenation is to surround ourselves with great musicians and actively engage/participate in our art by listening and learning. Anyway, here’s some wonderful live music I've heard recently:
I had an opportunity to hear/watch some live and choreographed performances including Messiaen’s powerful Quartet for the End of Time in October (a piece which I greatly admire but have never heard live before), Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet (with some of the most beautiful and memorable melodies ever written) in December, and my favorite work of the 20th century, Stravinsky’s masterpiece, the Rite of Spring. The Messiaen was every bit as visceral and striking as I had imagined it would be. Though not originally intended to be choreographed, it fit well with the atmosphere in the performance space at the Columbus Museum of Art. The Tchaikovsky and the Stravinsky were some of the finest playing I’ve heard by the Columbus Symphony. While I’ve heard both pieces live before, I had not seen either choreographed before this. It was great to experience them in their intended medium. It really makes me want to experiment more with interdisciplinary arts as a composer and performer!
In February, OSU hosted the 2013 National Conference of the Society of Composers, Inc. Tom Wells and I worked very hard to put together this massive event (12 concerts in 3 ½ days) and we were really pleased with the outstanding performances and the high quality compositions submitted. I had such a wonderful time meeting so many composers and performers and making new friends. The conference’s keynote speaker was composer, Joshua Fineberg, who teaches composition and theory at Boston University. One of the most memorable performances of the conference was his work Veils for piano performed by pianist, Fali Pavri who teaches piano at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. This compelling work was nothing less than stunning. Fali, whose musical sensitivity is staggering, absolutely brought the music of Fineberg to life. Fali’s performance of Chopin’s Sonata in Bb Minor during a guest recital the day after the conference literally brought me to tears.
During the same conference I had the opportunity to perform several great pieces. One of my particular favorites was Harmonic Fields by Liviu Marinescu. The instrumentation is flute, Bb clarinet, soprano saxophone, and piano, and I was fortunate to collaborate with some of the best musicians I know (Erin Helgeson Torres, flute; Justin Johnston, clarinet; Jiung Yoon, piano; and Nick Enz, conductor). The piece is really incredible and emotionally engaging as it explores the sonic possibilities of these instruments. Liviu mentioned that it was the best performance of the work he had ever heard. Dr. Marinescu currently teaches composition and theory at California State University Northridge. Here’s the live recording from his website: www.csun.edu/~liviu7/hfields/harmonicfields-4players.mp3.
Presenting one of my compositions to Aaron Jay Kernis
In April, two months after the craziness of the SCI Conference, Pulitzer Prize winning composer, Aaron Jay Kernis, visited Columbus for the premiere of his newest cello concerto, Dreamsongs. Before the premiere with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra Kernis gave a lecture and masterclass at OSU and brought his cellist, Joshua Roman, to perform a “practice run” of the concerto’s piano reduction (with Kernis playing piano). The piece was absolutely amazing and their performance was electric! The performance was given in the OSU Sound Synthesis Studio which is certainly no concert hall. We sat literally 10 feet from the performers in a circle. The experience was intimate and magical and the premiere with ProMusica two days later was equally special (particularly the lyrical and harmonic beauty of the 1st movement). The entire experience was enhanced because of how communicative, approachable, and just downright nice Kernis was. Something to think about for all young musicians!
Let me know what incredible music you’ve heard recently. Anything I should be listening to?