Instrumentalist - Viola, Instrumentalist - Violin
Conservative Generation, at Least When Composing
Young Concert Artists added composers to its roster about a decade ago, and it has been a good thing all around. The composers, given multiple-year residencies, have each produced a handful of works for the organization's performers, who have committed to adding them to their repertories.

A few of the works that have come of this project -- six recent pieces by five Young Concert Artist composers, past and present -- shared a program on Wednesday evening at Merkin Concert Hall. One thing they showed, however inadvertently, is that the organization has definite ideas about the kind of new music it wants to encourage. Although individual styles varied, all the works were in a consonant, accessible language, with only the rarest glimpses toward atonality or process-driven Minimalism.

The work most decisively rooted in the late 19th century was Benjamin C. S. Boyle's Sonata-Fantasy, a violin work performed by Timothy Fain, with the composer at the piano. Mr. Boyle's writing is rich in color and undeniably appealing, and Mr. Fain played it with a lavish, warm tone. But the distance between this piece and the Franck Sonata can be measured in millimeters.

Other composers tempered their conservative strains with fleeting modernist touches. Andrew Norman's "Lullaby," a setting of W. H. Auden's poem "Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love," began with a vocal phrase that had an almost medieval shape, but melted into a mildly angular, intensely emotional melody. It was perfect for Sasha Cooke, the mezzo-soprano, who gave it a passionate, carefully shaded performance, with Pei-Yao Wang playing the equally dramatic piano part.

A second work by Mr. Norman, "Sabina," for solo viola, traced a sunrise from a breathy, pianissimo opening to an insistent welter of double stops, counterpoint and arpeggiation from which accented themes emerged. Nokuthula Ngwenyama gave the piece an incendiary reading.

Mason Bates's five-movement "Red River" mated an easygoing score for piano trio and clarinet with a gentle electronic soundtrack. Mostly, this was meditative but changeable music, in which static figures blossomed into vividly picturesque passages, from which odd strokes occasionally shone through. A Brahmsian violin line, for example, might give way to a jazz-inflected clarinet or piano figure.

Jose Franch-Ballester, the clarinetist, and musicians of the Claremont Trio all seemed entirely at home with Mr. Bates's quickly morphing lines.

The program also included Daniel Kellogg's lush, inviting "Four Valentines," in a glowing performance by the Borromeo String Quartet, and Kevin Puts's "And Legions Will Rise," a rhythmically vital trio in which Mr. Fain and Mr. Franch-Ballester were joined by Naoko Takada, a dexterous marimba player.
Allan Kozinn, New York Times
Related Link
Back to List
Back to Top