Sunday, March 4, 2012

concert review: BluePrint New Music Ensemble

I'm not up at the SF Conservatory for the Hot Air Music Festival today, but I was there yesterday for a chamber ensemble concert. What attracted me to it was curiosity to hear a Harpsichord Concerto by Philip Glass, which turned out to be just what you'd expect: a hunk of Glassery with a harpsichord in it. Better balanced than his piano concerto, that's for sure; partly acoustics, partly that the harpsichord didn't have to fight a larger ensemble.

The winner of the evening, however, turned out to be a vocal piece by Neil Rolnick. Daniel Cilli, a baritone I've heard in the title role of The Barber of Seville, plays a man moaning over the discovery that he has Anosmia (that's the title of the piece), a complete loss of the sense of smell, or, as the two women singing together in a kind of ghostly echo of his words add, "Bye bye nose / Do do wah do wah do." If the text goes on rather too long as our hero works out his karma, the music doesn't pall. I particularly liked Rolnick's instrumental accompaniment: passacaglia-like repetitions in the bass with crisp tags running over them in a highly distinctive style. I doubt I'll ever want to hear this again, but I'm very glad I heard it once.

Also on the program, Eight Miniatures for quartet of flute, bassoon, violin, and piano, by a student composer named Stefan Cwik (that's apparently pronounced swick rather than quick). Subtitled "Hommage a Stravinsky," and no kidding, too. In the notes, Cwik loftily tells us that "Stravinsky's music was the largest influence upon me as a young and developing composer." Come on, man, you're 25 years old: unless you're Mozart, you're not out of being young and developing yet.

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