Wednesday, May 22, 2019

concert review: two pianos and political culture

The publicity agents for this concert invited me to attend. Then I got my editor to agree to publish the review.

The theme was recent piano compositions inspired by the search for social justice. As I noted in the review, the concept sounds deadly, and one of the pieces indeed was, but what I didn't say but should have was that the reason I jumped at the opportunity to go was the list of composers. I was familiar with work by six of the eight on the program, and at least four of those I was more than happy to hear music by again. Both of the ones new to me turned out pretty good too.

I hesitated a bit at whether I should approach Elinor Armer, when I saw her at the cheese and crackers table after the concert. Then I did. I complimented her on the wit of her composition, and mentioned her set of collaborations with Ursula Le Guin, most of which I heard in concert when they were new. We agreed that we both missed Ursula terribly, and she said that she was planning a CD of her previously unpublished settings of UKL's poetry. I'm looking forward to that.

Since her piece was a tribute to her composition teacher, the noted French composer Darius Milhaud (who spent many years part-time at Mills College here), I asked if by any chance she was familiar with my harmony instructor, who was also a Milhaud composition student. She didn't recognize his name, and I said, "Well, he was probably before your time. He would have been rather older than you." She said, "I'm 80 years old, you know." I said, "Yes, but he was my teacher nearly 50 years ago, and he wasn't a young man then." Anyway, we had an agreeable conversation.

Then I took my notebook home and wrote the review. With a program full of new works and only one I'd ever heard before, it was hard to evaluate the performances, but I could certainly describe the music, so that's what I mostly did.

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