Tuesday, October 19, 2010

neoPhonia concert review

Review of neoPhonia New Music Ensemble: October 19, 2010

I hesitate to call this a review because I'm not a professional journalist and I'm only going to say a few words of my impressions of the evening. For a critic's review, please see Pierre Ruhe's write-up on ArtsCriticATL.com.

This concert, which began the 16th season of neoPhonia, was an evening of three Atlanta native composers--Charles Knox, Mark Gresham, and Brent Milam. Charles Knox, born 1929, is our 'founding father', the oldest and most mature composer living and working in the Atlanta area. This concert was largely in honor of Mr. Knox. The evening was framed by his works, both the first and last pieces written by him. And a few words were said in his honor by Dwight Coleman, who spoke of working with Knox on an opera [could someone who knows more please provide details] and of Knox's 45-year relationship with the School of Music.

All composers were in attendance. It was greet to meet and chat with them before and after the show.

Following is the program with some of my notes...

KNOX / Song & Double (1984) for oboe & piano
All I wrote for this one was "beautiful". ;)

GRESHAM / Vagabond Drumming, Book IV (2010 - premiere) for percussion duo
Excellent and perhaps my favorite of the pieces in Gresham's Vegabond Drumming series.
Made use of blocks, bongos, snare, tamborine, cymbals and chimes. The blocks started together and then the percussion combined in different ways. The third movement was polyrhythmic, the fourth seemed Asian inspired with the pentatonic pitched blocks, the fifth got louder with snare, bongos, and blocks. I think Mark was very pleased with this performance, as he should be, it was great.

MILAM / Between The Walls (2010 - premiere) for flute, Bb clarinet, cello & piano
Great work. The first movement started off softly dissonant, but stayed light and went into jazzy playfulness. The second movement was soft and gentle. The third and most memorable to me started playfully pizzicato and pointillistic and gradually got more intense, melodic, and dense, a disintegration process in reverse. Very cool!

GRESHAM / Genshi (2010 - premiere) for Bb clarinet & viola
This was a beaufiful piece with much counterpoint, sometimes chasing, sometimes opposing. The clarinet and viola were in continual play with one another. I heard some intonation issues in the viola in several parts. I don't think the microtones were intended ;), but it did not take away from the beauty and delightfulness of the piece.

KNOX / The Framing Of This Circle (1999) for horn, violin & piano
WOW! This was the powerhouse of the evening. I don't have words to describe it. You just have to find a recording of it (if there is one; I hope there is!) and hear it for yourself. Swept me up, heart and soul. This was a fitting finale and brought the whole concert (which was already great to begin with) to a grand conclusion. This was absolutely the most mature piece on the program, which is not surprising given that Knox has decades on us in composing experience. : ) The instrumentation was a perfect union. The writing was in perfect relationship. Amazing piece!

Btw, here's the #neophonia Twitter feed with what I tweeted from the show (in between pieces, of course!)

Anyone else who was there, please feel free to add your comments.

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