BoCo New Music Festival 2006: Day 2

Submitted by Andy on Sat, 11/18/2006 - 12:22

Yesterday was a grab bag of TBC students and faculty performing a similarly mixed selection of works from the Second Viennese School (also Henze). My knowledge of this school is pretty weak, but way better now after these concert. I'm not sure how often all three of these d00ds (Schoenberg, Webern, Berg) are put on the same program, but it's fascinating to see how they treated the same academic model completely differently.

I hadn't received much in the way of twelve-tone analysis until my ear training teacher made an almost off-hand comment quickly running through the various angles that the composers set up their tone rows. The second half consisted entirely of Webern and Berg, and Berg's Four Songs, Op. 2 definitely felt like a Romantic treat in the middle of the Webern sandwich. There clearly wasn't a tonal center, but the sweet consonances produced by the tone permutations were more remiscent of Debussy than the angular shapes produced by Webern's rows.

Even more daring on the program was an early tonal piece by Berg and Webern each. Schoenberg's tonal period is well known, (Verklarte Night) but Webern's string quartet Langsamer Satz was entirely unexpected. I need to hear it again, but Webern's search for a pure musical language is evident even if he didn't know how to do it yet. Nonetheless it's a very lush and melodic work and the quartet chose to emphasize this. I found myself wondering what it would sound like if a group were to approach as they would the rest of the Webern canon. (Soho the Dog appears to be having a similar dilemma concerning a Feldman piece he'll be playing tonight.)

One uniting factor was a total commitment by all the musicians. Of particular note was the quartet that performed Webern's Six Bagatelles for String Quartet, Op. 9. A thoughtfulness and emotion exuded from the work that one rarely associates with serialist music. They were goddamn serious, and we were richly rewarded. I don't want to fall into hipsterati bullshit. I'm still not very good at this.

I must say big ups to Jim Dalton (who is also the aforementioned ear training teacher) with Hans Werner Henze's Drei tentos for solo guitar. Them's are hard music, and he came up with some frightfully clever uses of harp harmonics to get some of the famously impossible parts playable (and playable well!). His performance as well as my constant nagging may lead to some student compositions for solo guitar rolling out. Sweet.

Tonight is the Ludovico Ensemble, a student-run new ensemble. If nagging works with composers, perhaps it will work for ensemble directors too. (Not as likely.) Also, I'm too busy/tired to change the tournament polls, so it'll happen on Sunday again.